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Final Fantasy 13: Fangrai Forever

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            Fang and Lightning both ran as fast their legs would carry them. “I think he’s mad.” Fang said, sweat causing her sari to cling to her skin.

            Lightning regarded her. “What was your first clue?” She asked. “I hope Odin’s gonna be okay.” She said, looking down at the white and red globe in her hand.

            “I’m sure he’s fine. Once we get him to New Bodhum and the center, he should be right as rain.” Fang cast glance over her shoulder. The King Behemoth wasn’t letting up. “You know what? This bastard is starting to piss me off.” She slid to a stop.

            Lightning ran on a little further, before she realized her fellow trainer was in the path of the monster. “Fang! What are you doing?”

            Fang slowly pulled the crimson and pearl sphere from her belt pouch. “Bahamut! I choose you!” She hurled the ball into the air. In a bright flash of light and a rumble of thunder, the mighty dragon appeared. His roar shook the Archylte Steppe.

            The King Behemoth ceased its charge and reared on his back legs, likewise roaring a challenge. For a heartbeat or two, the two mammoth beasts circled, sizing each other up.

            “Bahamut! Lightning Scream!” Fang shouted commands to her companion.

            The dragon drew back, sucking a huge intake of air into his mouth. His head then shot forward. A shockwave rolled across the grasslands. Lightning bolts arced from his gaping maw, blasting at the Behemoth, staggering him back. The electricity arced over his body and between the gigantic horns protruding from his back. The monster let out a horrible pain filled bellow.

            “Don’t let up!” She shouted to Bahamut. “Use Thunderstrike!”

            Bahamut obeyed his lady’s commands to the letter. He spun about quickly, his mighty tail arcing in. As it cut through the air, a deep rumbling caused the very ground to shudder. When the tail impacted the dazed Behemoth’s ribs, a cacophonously deafening crescendo caused both Fang and Lightning to temporarily hear nothing but a low ringing.

            The King Behemoth was lifted from his feet and sent on a flight the ended in terrible crash. The beast rose to his feet and shook his head. It loosed another roar of frustration.

            “Bloody hell.” Fang said, her voice filled with abject surprise. She’d never seen a beast take two of Bahamut’s most powerful attacks and shake them off. The King Behemoth was staggered, but he was nowhere near done. She knew she couldn’t throw her ball just yet. The powerful beast would just escape and be twice as angered for her having tried. The Behemoth charged forward, looking to gore the dragon horribly. “Aerial Evasion!” She shouted to her friend.

            Bahamut gave a quick beat of his wings and raced into the sky. The giant quadruped leapt, trying to take the dragon down. Bahamut was like scaled lightning and managed to dodge, but took a vicious gash to the leg for his efforts. He let out a shriek as he shot skyward. The Behemoth hit the ground and looked upward, growling.

            “Lightning Strafe!” Fang called out her monster.

            Bahamut circled and came in low. He opened his mouth the loose the gathering bolts. The Behemoth King, at that moment, showed why he was the king of Pulsian plains. As the dragon raced in, the opposing creature took a running step and drove his armored crown into a massive formation of stone. He used his great horns to hurl the rocks into the dragon’s path.

            Bahamut had no chance of dodging out of the way of the missiles. He did the only thing he could. He loosed his strike. The resulting conflagration blasted the boulders into gravel.

            The Behemoth’s ploy did the dragon no damage, but Fang, Lightning and Bahamut soon learned that that wasn’t the point of the exercise. As the flying predator released his energy, the Behemoth was in motion.

            Bahamut came clear of the debris field just in time to be skewered in the shoulder by the jumping colossus.

            “Bahamut!” Fang shouted, fearful. She was deeply worried for her companion.

            The dragon let out an ear shattering shriek. The pain was terrible, but Bahamut was nothing if not determined. He was a legendary Eidolon. He would not fall to a simple beast. He would do his lady proud. He’d chosen her, to be his master and he would not let her down. He wrapped his arms about the Behemoth and beat his wings furiously. He arced into the sky. The strain was incredible. The weight of the Behemoth King was near as makes no difference the same as his own. But higher and higher he climbed. He could feel the muscle and sinew in his wound tearing, but still higher and higher he climbed.

            The Behemoth knew what was waiting. Inside his animal brain, he understood that he could not fly as his captor could. He was a land beast. His kind was not meant for the skies. He thrashed and clawed, doing his best to free himself.

            Bahamut maintained his hold until the ground was a small green patch in the far distance. He then banked and began flapping his mighty wings for all he was worth. The grass raced toward them at speeds beyond anything he’d achieved before. He began to growl, then it became an earth-shaking roar. The Behemoth King answered back, bellowing its own protest.

            Fang watched in fear as the dragon flew at breakneck speeds toward the ground. She knew what the dragon was doing. “Come on, big fella. You can do this.” She said, her hands clenched in front of her.

            “Let go, Bahamut.” Lightning said, her tone matching that her friend. “Let go, dammit!”

            But Bahamut didn’t. He wanted, needed to be certain. The Behemoth might have been a King, but he was Bahamut. He was a god. And he was going to prove it to the monster in his clutches.

            “Let him go!” Fang shouted at the dragon.

            And with only a dozen meters to spare, Bahamut spread his wings, stopping his descent, hurling the King Behemoth into the ground. The surface of the plains buckled under the onslaught. Waves of earth rolled out from the impact, knocking both Fang and Lightning from their feet.

            Fang immediately ran over to where Bahamut had landed. He let out a pain filled whimper as she reached up, gently caressing his snout. “You were magnificent.” She said to him. She pulled a large orange-yellow fruit from her pack. “Here. Sitrus Berry. Eat up.”

            Bahamut greedily gobbled the fruit down. Fang looked over at the Behemoth King. It lay on the ground, its chest rising and falling shallowly.

            Lightning stepped up and rested a hand on Bahamut’s neck. “He did wonderfully.” She then looked at Fang, her eyes narrowed, but glittering with humor. “You know he only won because he can fly.”

            Fang chuckled. “Don’t be a sore loser.” She said, smiling. “In all honesty, Odin just got surprised is all. No one expects something the size of a Behemoth King to be that fast.” She pulled a ball from her pocket and moved over, tossing it at the huge creature. The ball bounced off of the beast, hitting the ground near his feet. It split open and bathed the King in soft golden light. In a flash, the monstrosity was gone, leaving nothing but a crimson and white sphere. Fang picked it up and held it aloft. “Not a bad day.”

            Lightning sighed and shook her head. “Why is it you seem to be capturing all the vicious predators and I’m stuck with horses and colossi?”

            Fang moved over and pulled Lightning in for a kiss. “You favor things that like to take their time.” She smiled at her girlfriend. “But stop your bitching. You caught a Adamantoise yesterday.”

            “He fell asleep in the middle of the plains, Fang.” Lightning said. “It was an opportunity, not a fight.”

            “Still goes in the caught column, sunshine.” Fang offered. She took Bahamut’s pokeball from her satchel. “Time to go to sleep, big fella.” She reached over and tapped his nose with the globe. Like with the King Behemoth, he disappeared in a flash of golden light. “Come on. New Bodhum is a few hours away. And our boys need some TLC.”

            The pair of trainers turned and trotted toward the town.

Chapter Text

Lightning stepped up to the matte black Nissan GTR and immediately popped the hood. She leaned over and adjusted her turbo boost wastegate actuator.

“What does that do?” Her sister asked.

“Ups the pressure in the turbo.” Lightning offered. “Basically, it’s just more power.” She grinned widely. “A little more tweaking and I’ll be running nines.” She said, happily. “Gotta be careful, though. You push it too far and you could damage the whole system.”

Serah stood beside her, not really sure what she was looking at. “This all confuses the heck out of me.”

Lightning looked at her and shook her head. “You’re like, a genius with mathematics, but the internal combustion engine eludes you?” She chuckled. “Do you have any idea how much sense that makes?”

“That’s why I keep the books and you do the hard work. Besides, I’ve never been mechanically inclined, you know that.” Serah said. “You were always the one keeping mom’s car going after dad passed away. Even when you were like, six. I couldn’t even put my own bicycle together.”

“You were four, Serah. Most four year olds can’t put their own bicycle together.”

“You did.” The younger sibling offered.

Lightning shrugged. It was true. Just after she’d turned four years old, their mother bought her a bicycle. In the span of one day, she had it put together and was riding it.

Serah had never felt comfortable around machines. Unlike her younger sister, she always felt a kinship with them. She would spend hours just taking apart motors to find out how they worked. She’d restored a thirty year old lawnmower she found in an alley once when she was ten because she could. It was actually a really fun project and took her almost all summer to do it. She’d been studying everything she could get her hands on when it came to automotive mechanics. The sound of a highly tuned turbocharged engine just flat did it for her. She turned back to her sister. “Get in and fire it up for me. Give it a little gas.”

Serah did as her sister asked. She turned the key. The 3.8 liter V-6 growled to life. She revved it a couple of times.

Lightning listened intently at the engine. “There you are.” She said, reaching in and adjusting. She lifted her hand and motioned for Serah to gun it again. As the engine screamed, she made a minor tweak. The small imperfection she’d heard suddenly evened out. “Gotcha!” She said, happily. She stood and slammed the hood down. She wiped her hands on the rag and climbed behind the wheel as her sister moved over.

“Just out of curiosity, what has all the money you’ve put into this thing actually done?” Serah asked. “How much power does it have?”

“Seven hundred and nine at the rear wheel.” Lightning said, revving it. “About six hundred and thirty foot pounds of torque. It can top out at two hundred and six miles an hour and do low nines in the quarter mile. I dump it on a straight and inside of three and a half seconds, I’m speeding.” She pulled out of the bay of the small Speed Shop she and Serah ran and made for the Bodhum waterfront. Lightning had secretly been looking forward to this night all week.

As they cruised along, Serah grinned widely. “You’ll like this. You remember my friend Vanille?”

“The little redhead that lives off of Red Behemoth energy drinks and never shuts up?” Lightning asked, a spark of humor in her voice.

“She’s just a naturally happy person.” Serah said, giggling.

“Girl would be giggling at her own funeral. Not enough Ritalin in the world to calm that girl down.” The elder Farron sister offered. “What about her?”

“Her sister finally moved to Bodhum from Oerba. You might like her. She’s a car junky just like you.” Serah grinned widely, pulling her phone out. She pulled up the photo that Vanille had sent her. “She’s really pretty. That’s her. Her name is Fang.”

Lightning took the phone and looked at the girl. Pretty didn’t even begin to cover it. Fang was absolutely gorgeous.Clad as she was in the bikini top, black cargo pants and boots, Lightning couldn’t help but feel her temperature rise. She even liked the large tattoo on her shoulder. The mop of wild black hair was icing on the cake. “She’s got the looks, I’ll give her that. I just hope she’s not as bad as her sister.”

“They’re not technically sisters. Vanille says they were raised in the same foster home together. Besides, Vanille’s not that bad.” Serah said. “She’s just…bubbly.”

“No.” Lightning said. “Soda is bubbly. Champagne is bubbly. That girl is…something far more annoying than bubbly.”

A few minutes later, Lightning pulled onto the frontage road along the beach and saw the massive collection of vehicles. Normally, there was a bit of a rivalry between the different car subcultures. There were tuner imports – like the car she drove – sports cars, classic muscle cars, polished motorcycles, massive four by fours, and even a few more expensive European exotics. Every weekend in Bodhum, this was the place to be. It was where people came to see and be seen.

For as long as she could remember, Lightning had been frequenting this spot. When she was a little girl, it was just to see the beautiful rides, people arrived in. As soon as she’d been old enough to drive – and after having saving up every dime she earned, found, begged, borrowed and stole – she had gotten her own car. A weather beaten red Mitsubishi 3000 GT-VR4. The car was a great source of pride to her. She’d put hours under the hood, doing all of the work herself. When the day came that she could drive to the beach in her own car, she was happy as a clam. Her twelve year old sister sat in the passenger seat and smiled the whole way.

That was six years ago. Two months ago, when she turned twenty one, Serah and her boyfriend, Snow had bought her this GTR. She’d been stricken completely speechless. It was brand new from the dealership.

Normally, Lightning couldn’t stand Snow. She’d always thought he was big, brainless and just seemed all wrong for someone like Serah. On more than one occasion, she’d split his lip because of something he’d said to her. Six months ago, she’d finally managed to find some respect for him…because he got tired of her punching him and fought back. He’d actually blacked her eye. After that, it was a straight up throw down. Lighting had to give the lug credit he could take and throw a punch.

By the time Serah came home from work, the pair of them were sitting on the couch blooded and beaten…and laughing. Lightning had a bag of frozen peas over her eye and Snow was icing his jaw. Serah had smacked them both for being stupid and stormed out of the house. She spent a week with Vanille and didn’t return any of their phone calls.

She only came home because they both arrived together to make sure she was okay.

The fact that he went in for half of the cost of the Nissan kind of pissed her off. Because she couldn’t be pissed at him anymore. He’d found the key to her affection. If she didn’t love the car so damn much, it wouldn’t be so bad. But she did. And she had him to thank for it. He’s not a complete waste of oxygen. She thought silently to herself.

 She eased into a spot beside a massive white and chrome custom chopper. The gas tank was painted with a scantily clad woman that, much to Serah’s embarrassment and Lightning’s frustration, looked remarkably like the younger Farron sister. The boyfriend in question sat on the motorcycle, chatting with his friends.

Gadot, Maqui, Yuj and – much to Lightning’s dismay – Labreau stood around him, no doubt hanging on his every word.

Lightning rapped the motor out before turning her car off and climbing out. Labreau immediately looked at her and smiled, giving her a cheerful wave. It was no secret that the girl had a thing for the elder Farron sister. And Lightning, in all honesty would be interested if Labreau had two brain cells to rub together. Lightning tended to like to have intelligent conversations and Labreau was completely incapable of the task.

That and the woman didn’t know a gear shift from the night shift. Her idea of a carb was ‘that sugar stuff they put in food’. After that statement, Lightning did her best to ignore the woman. She did, however enjoy that she liked to wear as little as humanly possible when they met up on nights like this. And she was a hell of a bartender. Lightning was friendly, but never tried to lead the girl on.

Snow moved over and pulled Lightning into a massive bear hug. “How’s it goin’ sis?”

“I’m not your sister.” She said, pushing him away.

“Won’t be long now.” He said, grinning and wrapping his arm around her shoulder.

“Joy.” She said, leaning back against the fender of her car.

 

Fang rolled out from under the old Mustang and chuckled. “God, this is gonna be good.” She said. She climbed to her feet and adjusted the screw on the pair of carburetors. “Alright, Vanille. Fire it up.”

The redhead nodded and turned the key. The massive Ford V-8 shook her chest as it thundered into the openness of the workshop. She reached up and listened to the big block as it idled.

It had taken her almost two years and nearly a hundred thousand gil to get the original Single Over-Head Cam Ford engine, known throughout the muscle car community as the ‘Cammer’. The weight of the monstrosity caused the front of her ’69 Mach 1 to squat. She’d had to stiffen the suspension to support the girth, but she knew it was worth it.

With the single 500 cfm carburetor, it had come with originally, she was netting six hundred horses and change. Now, with the twin 750 cfm Webers, higher performance intake and the new dome-top forged pistons, she was easily cresting the seven hundred and fifty mark. The rumble of the engine was uneven and sloppy. She took two screw drivers and meticulously twisted the idle speed screws independently. Slowly, she could hear the difference. She smiled widely as the rumble became deep and even. “There we are.” She said, stepping back. She looked at Vanille and nodded. The girl pushed the pedal down. The torque caused the front of the car to hop. “That’s what I’m talkin’ about.” She said, nodding. She made a motion for Vanille to cut the engine. “Purrs like a kitten, she does.”

The redhead climbed out of the car. “That thing’s really loud.”

“I know.” Fang said as she went about putting her tools away. “Especially with the new Flowmasters on it.”

After grabbing a shower and changing out of her coveralls, Fang and Vanille headed out of the garage toward the beach. Fang put her sunglasses on and cruised along, enjoying the warm weather. She kept her hand on the wheel and the other on the shifter. She sat at the stoplight and waited. “Let’s have a little fun, shall we?” She pushed her foot down and began smoking the rear tires. She shifted into second, keep her foot on the brake.

“What are you doing?” Vanille asked her, nervously.

“You’ll see.” Fang said, grinning. She waited a second longer. Once the light changed, she took her foot off the break. The Mustang’s rear tires hooked up and the front of the car lifted from the ground nearly a foot and a half. Vanille laughed out loud as the car raced along on its back wheels. Fang carried the wheel stand for almost a block before she cut the throttle and dropped the front tires back to the pavement. “God, she moves.” She said, proudly.

“How long have you been working on this now?” Vanille asked.

“Four years.” Fang said. “After I blew the Cleveland that was in it, I decided to try and find this motor.” She couldn’t help but grin broadly. “I’ve never heard anything so beautiful.”

“Are you gonna do what Sazh wants you to do?” Vanille asked.

“I might.” She said. “The 390’s a good motor. Rebuilding it’s pretty simple, all things considered. His truck did sound pretty good with it in there.”

“Serah’s sister is gonna be there tonight.” Vanille offered off hand. “You remember me telling you about her.”

Fang nodded. “What was her name?”

“Lightning. She’s a mechanic, too. She loves cars almost as much as you do.”

Fang snorted. “You said she drives a Nissan GTR.” She shook her head. “That’s not a bad car, I guess. More like a laptop with wheels is you ask me.”  

“Etro’s sake, Fang. Can you at least pretend to be civil?” Vanille asked.

“I won’t start anything if she doesn’t.” Fang said. “That’s the best you’re gonna get.”

“She and her sister own a speed shop together.” Vanille shot to her. “And I like Serah and I don’t want you ruining our friendship because you can’t get along with her sister.”

Fang grumbled under her breath, but let it go. They pulled onto the road along the waterway and saw the huge collection of rigs. Fang’s eyes widened. “Wow. Didn’t realize how big the car community was in this town. Way bigger than back in Oerba.”

“Yeah, Bodhum loves itself some speed.” Vanille said. “Pull in right there.” She said, pointing to the spot beside the matte black import. “That’s a nice car.”

“It’s not bad. Little too modern for my tastes, but I’ve seen worse.” Fang offered. She revved the engine of the Mustang a couple times to show off, before cutting it.

Vanille climbed out and moved over to Serah, hugging the younger Farron sister. She then turned to Lightning. “Hey.”

Lightning nodded to her, but said nothing. She was too busy watching the tall leggy brunette rising out of the old school muscle car. Lightning couldn’t help but stare like a drunken frat boy. The picture she’d seen hadn’t even remotely done the woman justice. The low riding jeans hugged the dark haired beauty’s legs and seemed to go on forever. The half tank she wore showed off a muscular tanned stomach. Her arms, corded and lean were bare and looked absolutely delicious. She pulled her sunglasses off and turned to regard the gathered group. Her eyes immediately fell on Lightning. She raked the girl over and gave her a mischievous smile.

Vanille bobbed over and took her sister by the arm. “Everybody, this is Fang. She just moved here from Oerba.”

Snow was the first to step up to her. “Hey, Fang.” He said, offering his hand. “Welcome to Bodhum.”

She gave him a warm smile. “Thanks, big guy.” She offered. “That your bike?” She said, pointing to it. As he nodded proudly, she knelt down and looked at it. “V-Twin. Good motor. Sixty degree split. 1,250 cc. Gives you what, a hundred and fifteen, hundred and twenty horsepower?” She asked, getting back to her feet.

“You know your bikes.” He said, nodding. “She ain’t the fastest bike out there, but she looks good and sounds even better.”

Fang gave him a nod and offered her fist. “Gotta love a man that knows what he likes.”

Snow bumped it. “You know it.” He motioned to Serah. “This is my fiancé, Serah.”

Fang took her hand and kissed the back of it. “A pleasure.” She said, smiling.

“This sour apple with pink hair is Lightning, her sister.” Snow indicated the elder of the pair.

“Bite me, Snow.” Lightning said, glaring at him. She then turned to Fang. “You really know your stuff.”

Fang offered her hand. “I try.” She said. Lighting took it and gave it a firm shake. “You got a pretty nice set of wheels, here.”

“So do you.” Lightning said, keeping eye contact with the dark haired woman.

“What does she have under the hood?” Fang asked. “And you mind if I take a look?”

Lightning nodded, turning to pop the hood. “3.8 liter V-6. Came stock with six hundred horsepower and bit shy of five hundred foot pounds.” She pointed. “I upgraded the whole works with a HKS GT1000 Turbo Power Package. Full turbine kit, transmission gear kit and clutch, differential oil cooler kit, fuel upgrade kit with 800 cc injectors, and an R-type intercooler kit with duct.”

Fang whistled low. “Wow. Shade over thirty six grand. Not cheap.” She gave Lightning a smile. “Awesome performance never is, though am I right?” At her smiling nod, Fang looked back at the engine. “So with all this you’re pushing probably, what? Close to seven, I’d imagine.”

“Seven oh nine according to the Dyno I tested it on last week. Probably a little more after I tweaked it earlier this afternoon.”

“In a rig that’s just over thirty eight hundred pounds, that’s damn good.” Fang offered, happily. She then turned and pointed to her Mustang. “Almost as good as that.”

Serah, Vanille and the rest of the gang watched the pair. “They’re gonna be at a while.” Vanille said, turning to her friends.

“Claire can talk cars all day if I let her.” Serah said.

“Let ‘em talk.” Snow said, wrapping his massive arms around the petite pink haired girl. “I’ve got all I need to entertain me right here.” Serah giggled as she melted back into his strong embrace.

Lightning was now ignoring everything but the dark haired mechanic and her classic muscle car. She had to admit, that while she wasn’t a fan of older cars, preferring the whine of a turbo and the growl of a highly tuned engine, she could appreciate what the older rides like this represented. As far as she was concerned, cars like the Mustang were Genesis to street racers. Friday nights between the lights was what machines like this were built for. But the claim that Fang had just made… “This is a Mach 1.” She shook her head. “Showroom best was only three hundred and thirty five horses.”

“That’s absolute bullshit.” Fang said, shaking her head. “You’re talking about a four twenty eight Super Cobra Jet, sunshine. Stock, they laid down over four hundred. Companies were always playin’ fast and loose with their numbers back in the day.”

Lightning nodded, conceding the point. She waited as Fang removed the chrome hood locks and lifted the bonnet. She saw the shaker and performance parts and knew immediately that the powerplant was anything but stock. She narrowed her eyes and leaned in, looking closely. “Is that…?” She cocked her head this way and that. “Is this engine what I think it is?”

“Damn right it is.”

“This is a Cammer. These are really hard to find.” She looked to Fang. “Is it all original?”

“No. Replaced some of the internals. New intake, new carbs.” Fang said, pointing. “She’s sitting at about seven hundred and fifty as she stands.” She was genuinely proud of her car. “Was able to wheel stand her earlier today.”

“That takes balls.” Lightning said. “You put in some serious wrench time.”

“Yeah, she’s a beast alright.” Fang said. “You do all your own work?”

“Except for the balancing and blueprinting.” Lightning said as the woman dropped the hood. “You?”

“Same.” Fang said, chuckling. “Gotta be honest.” She looked at the GTR. “Not a fan of the newer imports, but you um, you picked a good one. Made a pretty impressive machine out of it.”

“Used to have a 3000 GT.” Lightning said. “This is a hell of an upgrade.”

“I’ll say.” Fang said. She looked to see Vanille chatting away with the group. “Looks like we’ve been forgotten.”

Lightning looked at the group and smiled. “That happens.”

Fang couldn’t help it. “Still…” She said, looking to Lightning. “No substitute for cubic inches.”

“Tell that to Ferrari and Lamborghini. They’ve found success for years in smaller highly tuned engines.”

“Can’t deny that.” Fang admitted. “But the heart in this baby is made for performance and longevity. The smaller tuners give you great performance…for about seventy, maybe eighty thousand miles. Then you got all sorts of wear and tear issues.” She shook her head. “You also can’t play as fast and loose with the mechanics. It’s all strictest tolerances.”

“Some people like the precision.” Lightning said. “Control versus grunt.” She patted the side of the Mustang. “She’ll do great in a straight line. But how does she handle turns? How well does she hold the road at speed? This is a driver’s car.” She pointed to the Nissan. “That’s a racer’s car.”   

Fang raised an eyebrow. “That a fact?”

“Yeah.” Lightning said, grinning. “That’s a fact.”

“Then how about we settle it up?” Fang asked, looking the pink haired girl over. “Loser pays for dinner?”

Lightning looked at her. “You’re forward. How do you know I even like women?”

“Oh, I don’t know. The way you were undressing me with your eyes when I climbed out of my car.” Fang said. “And my gay-dar works really well.”

“Fair enough.” Lightning said, crossing her arms. “Then let’s make it really interesting.” She drew closer to Fang, pecking her on the lips. “The loser buys dinner…and has to cook breakfast.”

The brunette grinned widely. “Now you’re talkin’.”

Vanille and Serah were shocked when the matte black Nissan and the blue Mustang both rumbled and growled away from the pair. “Five gil says I know what they’re doing.” Snow said, watching the cars depart.

Fang and Lighting pulled up to the frontage road. “First one to the rib joint on eighth?” The dark haired driver offered. She began pulling on a pair of fingerless gloves. “Two miles. Perfect for a good run.”

Lightning nodded. She tugged on her leather driving gloves. “Sounds good. Hope you’re ready to have your ass handed to you.”

“We’ll see, sunshine.” Fang said. “Just try and keep up.”

“My name is Lightning.” She chuckled. “You’re about to find out why.”

“Lightning.” Fang said, nodding. “I like that. Gonna sound real good screaming that in the night.”

Lightning chuckled as she held up her fingers, counting down. Three… two…and the pair were off. Fang, as she had before, lifted the wheels of her car from the road. Lightning’s rear wheels shrieked before gaining traction.

And the beach was alive…with the sounds of horsepower.

Chapter Text

Lightning still couldn’t believe it was real. She sat across the small dining room table from the one person she thought she’d never see again. Fang caught her staring at her and offered a smile. Something about that smile was…off. Lightning was used to her friend being fiery and cocksure. Now Fang seemed somehow subdued. It was strange.

Vanille and Serah chatted happily. It was going to be a tight fit for a while, as New Bodhum was still in the midst of early construction. The fall of Cocoon – and the Oerbans collected saving of it – was just a scant few months ago. The dust had yet to truly even settle.

None were prepared when Bahamut and Hecatoncheir both blasted their way free of the crystal pillar that housed the pair of Pulsians. Fang and Vanille emerged seconds later, much to everyone’s delight.

Lightning and Serah were more than happy to offer their small two bedroom home to the pair. They felt it was the least they could do for the true heroes of Cocoon.

“Light?” Fang asked, snapping her fingers in front of the woman’s face. “Gran Pulse to Lightning.” She was smirking now.

“Huh? What? Did you say something?” Lightning asked her.

“I asked if you could pass that salt.” Fang said, pointing.

“Oh. Yeah.” The pink haired woman took it and offered it over. Fang reached out and took it, brushing her warm fingers across cold digits. The pair paused a moment, looking into each other’s eyes. Both women knew and understood that they shared a connection. It had formed the moment they met in the alley in Palumpolum and only gotten stronger.

For Fangs part, she no longer had the courage to try for more. She wanted to, she desperately did, but…she was Ragnarok. How could Lightning possibly fall for someone like her? How could the soldier love someone who had the power to destroy the world? Slowly, she pulled her hand away and sprinkled the salt over her food. She set it down and quietly went about eating. She didn’t look at the pink haired woman again.

As Lightning watched the defeat in Fang’s eyes, her heart broke. She wanted to comfort the woman, to tell her that she did what was necessary, became what was necessary to save her family and her friends. She wanted to say to Fang that if their positions were reversed, she’d have done the same thing. She wanted to tell her all of that, but…she didn’t know how. Somehow she felt that if she did, Fang would see it less as understanding and more as pity. Mainly because that’s how Lightning would see it were she to hear it.

~~~ 

Days turned into weeks. Lightning and Fang worked tirelessly to help get New Bodhum built. Fang and Vanille occasionally brought up that they should begin work on their own home so they could give the space back to the Farron sisters, but Lightning always seemed to come up with a reason they shouldn’t. There were too many people that still needed help with their homes first seemed to be a particular favorite.

Fang honestly believed that the soldier was just being nice and making it seem like it was no burden. Fang, however knew better. The weather was getting colder and more bitter. Winters on Gran Pulse were terrible and she knew it. Tomorrow. She though to herself. Vanille and I are moving out tomorrow. Her mind was made up.

The four of them sat about eating a wonderful stew that Serah and Vanille had been spending all day working on. It was absolutely delicious.

“We’re making a change tonight.” Vanille said, matter of fact. “Serah’s sleeping in my room and you two are sharing a bed.” Serah gave her a nod.

“What?” Fang and Lightning said in unison. “Why?” They said again.

“First,” Serah said, looking at Lightning. “I’m tired of you hogging all the blankets and second, I’m tired of you pressing your cold feet into the backs of my legs.”

“I get cold at night.” Lightning said, looking down at her bowl. “I can’t help it.”

“And you,” Vanille said, pointing her spoon at her adopted sister. “It’s like sleeping next to an active volcano. You’re so damn hot at night, I sweat.”

“What do you want me to do? Sleep outside?” Fang asked her.

“No. I want you to sleep with Lightning.” Vanille said. The two elder women looked at each other and back to Vanille, their eyes wide. “I don’t mean sleep with, I-I mean sleep together – no! I meant that I want you in bed together, oh…” She looked at Serah. “Help me out here.”

“I was actually enjoying you floundering.” Serah said, chuckling. That earned her an adorable glare from the petite redhead. The younger Farron sister looked at Fang and Lightning. “You two know what she means.”

Both of the elder girls blushed. Neither made eye contact.

~~~ 

Fang pulled the curtain back to see large snowflakes falling in a blinding torrent. “This is your first Pulsian winter, isn’t it?” She asked as Lightning changed into her nightclothes.

“We didn’t really have winters on Cocoon. The climate was controlled by the Fal’Cie.” Lightning offered. She pulled her pajama top on. “I’m decent.”

Fang turned to regard her. The pale pink flannel looked adorable on her. “It gets colder than this.” She said, moving over to the bed.

“And you plan on sleeping in a tank top and panties?” Lightning asked. She was doing her best not to drool as she looked over the woman’s shapely form.

“I get hot.” Fang said. “Just to let you know, Vanille tells me I’m a cuddler.”

“Serah says the same thing. I’ve woke up spooning with her a few times.” Lightning shuddered as she threw the blankets back and climbed under them. “Kind of a weird position to wake up in when you’re in bed with your sister.”

“Yeah, there’s really no way to explain that without sounding like a pervert.” Fang said, chuckling. She earned a smile from Lightning. She dropped onto the bed, not bothering to cover up. Lighting turned the lamp off.

“Good night, Fang.”

“Night, Light.” She heard Lightning snort humorously. She closed her eyes and quickly drifted off to sleep.

Lightning awoke with a start, her eyes snapping open. She remained still, letting her senses stretch out to encompass the room. She was lying on her side, pressed up against Fang’s tall muscular form. Her hand had somehow found its way under the huntress’ shirt and was resting directly atop her breast. Her head was laying upon Fang’s shoulder and her leg was draped over the dark haired beauty’s warm thigh. For her part, Fang’s arm was under Lightning’s head and resting on the woman’s shoulder lightly. The brunette was still fast asleep. Her light snoring rhythmic and comforting.

Every night since she’d begun living on Gran Pulse, Lightning had awoke shivering. But at this moment, she wasn’t cold or uncomfortable. She was a bit embarrassed that she’d so thoroughly invaded the Pulsian’s personal space, but the feeling faded quickly. As cliché as it was, she felt like she belonged here. “I do belong here.” She said, after a moment.

“Huh?” Fang said, waking up. “What did you…?” She turned to look into Lightning’s eyes. “Oh, god, Light.” She said, trying to pull her arm free from beneath her head. “I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t.” Lightning said, shaking her head. “Leave it. It’s comfortable and warm.” She did show a bit of decorum and slyly moved her hand from Fang’s breast to her iron hard stomach. “You’re so warm.”

Fang wasn’t sure what to say or do. “I um…”

“You used to smile at me.” Lightning said, as she rested her head back down on the muscular shoulder. “You always had this look that said you wanted me. That smirk always said ‘give me a chance and I’ll make all your wildest dreams come true’.” She looked into Fang’s tear rimmed eyes. “What happened to that smile, Fang? What happened to that woman?”

For several seconds Fang didn’t answer. “I don’t know.” She finally said. “I guess…I guess maybe she died when she had to become Ragnarok again.” She closed her eyes.

“Fang, look at me.” Lightning said. She touched the woman’s cheek and turned her face toward her. “I know what you carry in here.” She tapped Fang’s chest. “I know you fear it, but I don’t. Even when I found out what you were, what you could become…” She shook her head. “I didn’t care.” She moved over and placed a soft kiss on Fang’s warm lips. “I didn’t care because it was a part of you.”

“You mean…?” Fang couldn’t finish the question. Her voice hitched in her throat.

“Ever since I was a little girl, I knew the person that claimed my heart would be strong, fearless and able to face the kind of life I wanted without being intimidated.” She chuckled. “I always thought it would be some burly soldier with weapon rough hands, a gun the size of the Lindblum and enough testosterone to make Snow look effeminate.” She sighed and kissed Fang again. “But truth is stranger than fantasy. Who knew it would be a five hundred and twenty year old spear wielding huntress from Gran Pulse?”

Fang was shocked beyond words at what she was hearing. “Say it.” She said, softly. “Tell me and I’ll believe you. Say the words, Lightning.” A sob escaped her lips.

Lightning pulled her in and hugged her tightly. “I love you, Fang.”

Fang buried her face in Lightning’s shoulder and cried. “I love you, too Lightning. I never thought…I always thought you’d hate me for what I was. What I could become.”

“I could never hate you, Fang. Never.” She held the woman close. “My life was never the same before I met you.” She pulled back and looked into the huntress’ eyes. “I just never had the nerve to…” Lightning stopped when she heard a soft giggling.

“What is it?” Fang asked. “Is everything alright?”

Lightning put her finger up to her lips and slowly pulled away, silently slipping out of bed. She padded quietly over to the door of the bedroom. With a quick motion, she whipped the door open, causing Serah and Vanille to topple in onto the floor.

“Um…” Serah said, looking up at her sister with an embarrassed blush on her face. “Hi?”

Vanille was far, far too happy to even care that she and her cohort had been caught eavesdropping. “Congratulations!” She said, throwing her arms around Lightning’s neck and hugging her tightly.

Lightning accepted the hug for a moment.

“Vanille, what in the blazes are you doing out there?” Fang asked, sitting with her knees under her arms. She looked to Serah who had risen to her feet, dusting herself off. “Did you two set this up?”

“Well, we had to do something.” Serah said, standing there and crossing her arms. Lightning had to physically peel Vanille off of her. The redhead then raced over and dove at Fang, who let out a shocked “Oof!” As she was bore down under her weight. Serah turned to Lightning. “Watching you two dance around each other for the past few weeks was just plain out and out painful. I mean, it was pathetic.”

“How could you have been sure…?” Lightning began.

“Snow figured it out three days after Fang and Vanille woke up.” Serah said, raising an eyebrow. “For Etro’s sake, Claire, Gadot figured it out. If he can put two and two together, then obviously there’s something there.”

“That is pretty damning, Light.” Fang said, sitting with Vanille on the foot of the bed.

“Fine. I love Fang and she loves me, happy?” Lightning said, glaring.

“Very.” Serah said, grinning.

“Good. Now get the hell out of my bedroom so my girlfriend and I…” Lightning couldn’t help but smile. “God damn I like the way that sounds.” She walked over and took Fang’s hands, pulling her to her feet. “My girlfriend and I.”

“Does have a nice ring to it.” Fang said. She kissed Lightning passionately.

Vanille and Serah quietly excused themselves.

After a long and heartfelt embrace, the pair climbed back into bed and wrapped their arms around each other. Lightning reveled in the warmth of her girlfriend.

Fang took comfort in the pink haired soldier’s constant chilliness.

That night, the pair slept better than they ever had before. It was made better that it was to be the first of many such nights.

Chapter Text

             She rolled to stop and leaned back. She pulled her helmet off, letting her thick wild dark locks spill down her neck and shoulders. She looked up at the sign hanging over the door of the bar and chuckled. “Orphan’s Cradle.” She said, her thick Pulsian accent filled with sarcastic humor. “Funny.” She threw her leg over the side of the motorcycle and rested her helmet on the fuel tank and moved inside.

            As Fang pushed the doors open, her senses were immediately assaulted by the sounds, sight, smell and look of the rough and tumble bar. The lights were dim, giving the place a speak-easy feel to it. The juke-box on the far wall threw the guitars of Heading Out on the Highway by Judas Priest out into the room. She wound her way through the tables, before dropping to one in the back corner, allowing her to keep a watch on the door. She leaned back in the chair and dropped her booted feet on the surface. A rather young boy with blue hair moved up, carrying a tray. “Beer.” Fang said, eyeing the boy. “Whatever you have on tap.” She added.

            “Comin’ right up.” He said, setting a napkin down on her table.

            Fang watched him walk away and reached into her motorcycle leathers, pulling out her cellphone. She flipped through and read the text message she’d been given.

 

We need to meet. 994 NW Cocoon St, Neo Cocoon.

10 Pm. Don’t be late.

 

            She was surprised to get the message to be completely honest. She hadn’t seen the sender in a long time. She secretly wondered how the woman was doing. She’d thought about her quite a bit. Fang looked up as the mug tapped down on the table. “Thanks.” She said to the young man. She saw him move away and stuffed her phone back into her leathers.

            “I’m tellin’ you, that’s her.” She heard from a nearby table. She flicked her eyes to the group that occupied it. “That’s Fang.”

            At the mention of her name, she turned fully toward them. She could see them huddled around a tablet. From what she could see, they were watching some news broadcast or other. She strained to hear what the broadcast consisted of. She smiled when she heard the announcer. Her guerilla war with the New Sanctum government on Gran Pulse had been the stuff of Urban Legend. For the past eight years she’d cost them millions of gil in resources and manpower. Her latest act; the assassination of the new Primarch and most of his fellow politicians in the five star hotel they were staying at was one of her crowning achievements.

            Yes, years ago, she had a special place in her heart for Hope Estheim, but he’d long since been corrupted by the power that his position granted him. When the order to demolish Oerba and turn it into a strip mine came down, she had to act. What made it easy to get over was Vanille’s reaction. She loved the boy, but when Fang told her what she planned to do, the little redhead was very supportive. She’d take their history over romance.

            Hope Estheim was dead twenty four hours later, his body burned to a crisp along with most of the New Sanctum top brass. The firebomb she’d planted took the entire hotel down.

            Gran Pulse was her world, her history. Once upon a time, she might not have cared. But things change.

            She looked at the group at the table, lifted her mug and gave a simple salute with the beer then took a mighty swig. She put her glass down and looked at her watch.

            9:58 PM.

            The door of the bar swung upon. Fang’s eyes fell upon the reason she’d ridden almost two hundred miles to be here.

            She could tell that she wasn’t the only one that had changed. “She still looks fantastic.” Fang said to herself.

            Claire ‘Lightning’ Farron stood at the door, her ocean blue eyes sweeping the over the room like twin lasers. They soon settled on Fang. They narrowed dangerously. As the woman moved closer, the huntress took time to appreciate the ex-soldier. Her legs, sheathed in black leather, still looked amazing. Her body was still lean and sculpted, as it had been in their l’Cie days. The heavy leather jacket she wore hung off her slightly broader shoulders. The woman’s rose colored hair was significantly longer and pulled back in a thick braid that hung nearly to her bottom.

            Finishing off the ensemble was the gun blade that still hung from the woman’s belt. Lightning approached the table, taking a chair and spinning it around, sitting down and resting her arms across the back. For several seconds, the pair were content to star at each other.

            “Been a long time, Light.” Fang said, giving her former companion a smile.

            Lightning continued to affix her with the patented ‘Farron stare’. “Ten years. Would have been longer.” She said, her tone icy. She reached into her jacket and pulled out a folder piece of paper and set it on the table. She slid it across to Fang. “This isn’t a social call. I’m here on business.”

            “You were always were the professional. Even back then.” Fang said, reaching for the sheet. She took it and unfolded it. She wasn’t necessarily surprised to find herself staring at a bounty notice. “That’s a good picture.” She said, looking to Lightning. “How much am I worth, just out of curiosity?”

            The rosette shook her head. “It isn’t about the money.” She said, reaching into her jacket again. She tossed another sheet across the table. “The Sanctum isn’t happy with you at all.”

             “We fought against Sanctum together, you and I.” Fang said, taking another sip off her beer.

            “I remember.” Lightning said. 

            Fang lifted the second paper and looked it over. Her eyes suddenly filled with red. Like her, Vanille also had a price on her head. “What the hell is this?” She asked, angrily.

            “You know damn well what it is. And you know why.” Lightning said.

            “She’s got nothin’ to do with what I do.” Fang said. “You know I’d never let her take the fall for me.”

            Lightning shook her head. “I don’t care.”

            “What…?”

            “Serah’s dead, Fang.” Lightning’s voice was cold and sharp. “Her and Snow. I always knew it was you that had been attacking New Sanctum. And I didn’t really give a shit. If anything, I could understand why you were doing it. But when you blew up that hotel…” She closed her eyes to keep from crying. “She was there, Fang. Both she and Snow were staying there when it blew.”

            “Oh, god.” Fang said, her voice a whisper. “Light, I…I didn’t know.”

            “I know you didn’t.” She said, her tone softening. “You wouldn’t have hurt Serah or Snow if you could have helped it.” Her eyes then narrowed. “But because of you, they’re both dead.” In a flash, her gun blade was free and pointed at Fang’s head. “And now, because of you, I’ve got nothing left.”

            Fang slowly set the paper down and looked up at Lightning. “Are we really gonna do this here?”

            “I’ve got nothing left to lose.” Lightning said. She gripped the edge of the table, hurling it to the side. The patrons scattered, screaming. She ignored them. “Get up. I want you on your feet.”

            Fang rose, her hands up where Lightning could see them. “I’m sorry, Light. If I’d have known…”

            Light cracked Fang across the side of the face with the barrel of the gun-blade. “Don’t you dare apologize to me.” She spat.

            Fang stared at the woman. She could see how badly Lightning hurt. Blood dripped from the edge of her mouth. “Please, Lightning. Kill me, I deserve it. But leave Vanille alone. She doesn’t deserve to die for my mistakes.”

            Lightning’s eyes flashed. She pulled a photo out of her pocket and flicked it toward Fang. The woman caught it. She looked at it and her heart sank. Vanille…a large caliber bullet hole in the center of her forehead. “She’s already dead, Fang.”

            Tear’s immediately filled her eyes and fell down her cheeks. “Vanille…” She looked at Lightning. “Why?”

            “Because I want you to know what it’s like to lose everything. Yeah, you lost Oerba. But you still had Vanille. I lost my parents, but I still had Serah. Because of you, I don’t even have her, now.” She smiled like a skull. “Now, you know how it feels.”

            Fang let the photo slip from her fingers. In an equally rapid motion, she snatched the cylinder from her hip and hit the catch on the side. Her lance was extended in a heartbeat. “It didn’t have to be this way.”

            “Yes.” Lighting snarled, backing away from the huntress. Her gun-blade quickly reshaped itself, becoming a massive sword. “It did. I wanted you angry, Fang. I wanted you fighting with nothing left to lose.” She gripped the weapon in both hands.

            “Well, guess what?” Fang growled. “You got it!”

            Lightning rushed forward, rage in her eyes. Fang likewise came in, her lance leading. Once upon a time, the pair were more than friends. Theirs was a pain and dream shared. They had nothing to live for aside from the sisters they loved. In each other, they’d found common desires. They’d found, in each other, a reason to live again.

            They were kindred spirits. And now again.

 

            Major Noel Kreiss, Chief of Neo Cocoon Police Bureau stepped out of his patrol car and looked at the disaster Orphan’s Cradle had been reduced to. “Etro’s name.” He said, shaking his head. He made his way beyond the yellow crime scene tape. The coroner wheeled two forms, wrapped in body bags out. “Stop.” He said, moving over. “Open ‘em up.”

            The medical examiner’s assistants unzipped the bags. Noel was forced to do a double take. “Oh, god.” He said, his voice failing him.

            “Sir?” One of the officers asked him. “You alright?”

            Noel looked at him. “Yeah.” He said, swallowing past the lump in his throat. “Fine.”

            “You knew these two, didn’t you?” He asked his Chief.

            “Long time ago.” Noel said. “Another life.” He waved the pair away. He stepped aside, trying to fight the bile that was rising in his throat. He was only heartened by one thing.

            Both Fang and Lighting had smiles on their cold, dead faces.

 

~~~

 

Nothing Left to Lose ~ Alternate Ending.

 

            “Been a long time, Light.” Fang said, giving her former companion a smile.

            Lightning continued to affix her with the patented ‘Farron stare’. “Ten years.” She said, her tone carefully neutral. She reached into her jacket and pulled out a folder piece of paper and set it on the table. She slid it across to Fang. “I’m here on business.”

            “You were always were the professional. Even back then.” Fang said, reaching for the sheet. She took it and unfolded it. She wasn’t necessarily surprised to find herself staring at a bounty notice. “That’s a good picture.” She said, looking to Lightning. “How much am I worth, just out of curiosity?”

            “Five hundred thousand gil.” Lightning said, her expression softening. “Lotta money, Fang. New Sanctum is really not happy with you.”

            Fang gave it another look and then turned her emerald green eyes to Lightning’s ocean blues. She was suddenly a touch nervous. “Word has it you gave up the Corps. Went freelance.”

            Lightning gave her a nod. She then tapped the notice in Fang’s hand. “I normally won’t leave the house for less than a quarter million. This was to tempt me.”

            “Why would they wanna send you?” Fang asked.

            “Because they know you, Fang. They know the truth.”

            “And that is?”

            “I’m the only chance anyone has of stopping you.” Lightning responded. She reached over and took Fang’s beer, downing the rest of its contents. “You and I?” She flipped the mug upside down and set it gingerly on the table. “We’re the best there is at what we do.” She then stared directly into the brunette’s eyes. “But we both know that what we do isn’t very nice.”

            Fang cocked her head. “So this is how it goes down, yeah?” She said, setting the paper on the table. “Two old friends on opposite sides?”

            Lightning didn’t answer the question. She just continued to stare. “Do you remember the hotel? The one you firebombed?” She asked, finally. Fang regarded her with narrow eyes.

            “Serah and Snow were there.” She said, her voice hard as iron.

            “Oh god.” Fang said. “Light, I’m…”

            “Sorry?” The pink haired woman asked her. “Yeah. I’m sure you are.” She began turning the glass in her hand on the table. “And you know what? I don’t blame you.” She said. “I mean, I wanted to. For days I thought about hunting you down and putting a bullet in your head.”

            “Why didn’t you?” Fang asked. “If someone had killed Vanille, I would have…”

            “They’re not dead.” Lightning said. “Serah’s fine. Snow got tore up, though. He’s stronger than I ever thought. He shielded her and managed to get her out. He’ll be out of it for a while, but he’ll recover.” She gave Fang a smile. “The fact that they’re still alive is the only reason you are.”

            “I am sorry, Light. If I’d have known they were in the hotel, I wouldn’t have done it.” Fang said.

            “I believe you. You loved Serah like a little sister. And Snow was the big brother you never had. You wouldn’t do anything to hurt either of them. At least not intentionally.” Lightning then pushed the glass toward the edge of the table. “As I thought about you, I realized two things.”

            “What’s that?” Fang asked. There was something about Lighting’s tone that just…had her confused.

            “First, was that you were always an honorable person. You always acted for a reason. Back when we were l’Cie, it was to save Vanille. I couldn’t blame you then. I know what Hope was doing. What he had planned. Oerba means too much to you. He should have known how that would affect you.” She shook her head. She then lay her head on the table, looking at the glass as it sat perched on the edge of the wood. “He was with us all the way through it. He should have thought about what he was doing.”

            Fang listened to her and looked at the mug, glistening in the light of the bar. “What’s the other thing you realized?”

            Lightning lifted her head and again stared intently at Fang. “I’ve loved you since the moment I laid eyes on you.” She tipped the mug over the edge. The pair were quiet as the glass shattered on the floor.

            Fang was surprised by that. “Why…?”

            “Why didn’t I say anything?” Lightning asked. As Fang nodded, she grinned. “Because I didn’t wanna admit it to myself. No matter how far I was falling for you, I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t be honest with myself.”

            “But ten years, Lightning? You waited ten damn years to tell me.” Fang was somewhat hurt by the fact. She’d always had feelings for the pink haired warrior. Being who and what she was and given where and when she was from, Fang prized combat prowess and honor in her mates. It was the same for all hunters and huntresses of that long past age. And Lightning Farron had both qualities in excess.

            “Like I said, I just wouldn’t allow myself to admit it.”

            “But now you can?” Fang asked. As Lightning nodded, she felt her heart soaring. “So you’re not here to kill me?”

            “No.” Lightning said. “I saw that notice and knew I had two choices. I could hunt you down and try to kill you…” She jumped to her feet and snatched her gun-blade from her belt. “Or I could find you and protect you.” She spun and leveled her weapon, firing bullets into the group of patrons sitting at the table a few feet away. Crimson florets erupted across their bodies as the shots mowed them down. The rest of the people in the bar scattered and screamed.

            “Bloody hell.” Fang said, shooting to her feet.

            “They were Bounty Hunters, same as me.” Lightning said. “I recognized them as soon as I walked through the door.”

            “I didn’t know.” Fang said, shaking her head. “Thank you.”

            “Just so you know…” Lightning said, pulling a second notice from her jacket. “They’re not just after you.”

            Fang took it and read it. “What?” She said, her eyes narrowing. “They’re after Vanille, too? She’s innocent. She has nothing to do with what I’m doing.”

            “New Sanctum doesn’t give a shit.” Lightning said, shaking her head. “They just want you both dead. Seven hundred and fifty thousand gil for the both of you.”

            “We have to get to her and keep her safe.” Fang said.

            “Then let’s go. Until we bring down New Sanctum, I’m your new shadow.” Lightning said.

            The pair ran from the bar. Fang tossed the helmet to Lightning. The pink haired gunfighter shook her head and tossed it back. “You’ll need it to drive. It’ll impair my vision too badly. I might have to fire on the run.”

            Fang nodded. It made sense. She jumped onto the motorcycle, firing it up. “You know, it’s funny.” The brunette said. “On the back of a motorcycle was the first time I met you.”

            Lightning grinned back. “You looked pretty damn sexy, I’m not going to lie.” She wrapped her arms around the woman. “Let’s ride. We’ve got a government to topple.”

            “Another day in the life, yeah?” Fang asked, revving the engine and lifting the front tire off the ground as she raced off.

 

            Noel Kreiss, Chief to the Neo Cocoon Police Bureau walked through the bar, looking at the four dead men. He knelt and inspected their wounds. “Gun blade.” He said, shaking his head.

            “How do you know that, sir?” One of the uniforms asked.

            He rose to his feet and sighed. “Experience.” He said, softly. He turned to leave and stopped.  He reached down and picked up a blood soaked sheet of paper. He’d seen the likeness before. He recognized the portrait and the name.

 

Wanted Dead or Alive: Oerba Yun Fang.

 

            “What is that, sir?” The officer asked him.

            Noel chuckled it and folded it up, putting into a plastic evidence bag. “It’s a warning, trooper.”

            “A warning, sir?”

            “To us.” He looked at the man. “Lightning Farron and Oerba Yun Fang are back together again.” He handed him the bag. “And Etro help anyone that stands in their way.”

            The officer knew the names well. There was nothing on Gran Pulse more dangerous than the two ex-l’Cie. That went double if the women were pissed off.

            He turned back to the four bullet riddle corpses. The room seemed to get significantly colder.

Chapter Text

Lightning and Fang Cloud watching.

            The sky was a bright vibrant blue. A light summer breeze blew across the plains. The birds were singing and the distant echo of industry could be faintly heard. Pillows of white cotton lazed across the ocean of azure.

            “I like it,” Fang said, nodding. “It’s got a certain…charm.”

            Lightning cocked her head. “I don’t know.” She said, narrowing her eyes and pursing her lips. “Too…fluffy for my tastes.”

            “Yeah, you might be right. It does bow out a bit much around the bottom, doesn’t it?” She said, pointing.

            Lightning gave a like nod. “Maybe something else.” She said, shaking her head.

            After a couple of minutes, they were greeted with another display. “Oh, I like the color of this one. Really brings everything out.” Fang said, happily. “I think we’ve got a winner.”

            Lightning cocked her head this way and that. “It’s a little thin. We can see a lot through it. And I’m not a fan of the shape.” She shook her head. “Ruins the feel.”

            “Fair enough,” Fang said, conceding the point. “On to the next.”

            Again, they were in for a short wait. “What do you think of this one, Sunshine?” Fang asked. “Good form, nice shape and feel. And I like the color even better.”

            “It is a nice form.” Lightning said, grinning. “It really does pop with the rest of the colors, doesn’t it?”

            “So do you think we’ve got a winner here?” Fang asked.

            “Definitely.” Lightning said. “Now the hair…”

            Cloud Strife glared at the pair of them as he stood, his lithe frame clad in the bright red dress. “The things I do for the sake of my friends.” He snarled under his breath.

           

Fang and Lightning get snap chat, and while Light is at work, Fang decides to snap chat nudes to her.

 

            Fang lay on the bed with her phone in her hand. She’d sent the text to her fiancé almost an hour ago. Knowing Lightning as she did, the woman was most likely just working. She grinned widely. “I know how to get her attention.” She said. She quickly pulled her long t-shirt off and rolled over onto her stomach. She took a quick photo of her laying with no top on, capturing the curve of her cleavage pressed against the blankets of their bed. She sent it through her Snap-chat, chuckling. She knew how much her love enjoyed the look her bust.

            She wasn’t surprised to receive a responding text. Well, that just made my day.

            Fang giggled and rolled onto her side. She pulled the sky blue throw pillow that lay on the bed and lay it against her stomach, barely concealing her breasts. If you liked that, you’ll love this, baby. She took the photo and sent it.

            After a few seconds, she received another response. God damn!

            Fang spent the next hour sending various shots of herself over to her love. Her final shot was laying back, completely topless, showing Lightning everything she could expect when she got home.

            I’ll leave you alone to get some work done. Love you. Fang texted, smiling.

            Oh, don’t go on my account. She received back.

            You’re naughty. YOU’VE got work to do. But if you’re a good girl today, I’ll do something really special for you when you get home.

            Like what?

            Tongue, chocolate and cherries. Let your mind run with that. Fang shot back. Now go back to work.

            I’m one lucky bitch. She got back.

            Fang laughed and got up, pulling her shirt back on.

            It was just after six when Lightning came through the door, groaning. “God, today was hell.”

            Fang moved over and pulled her fiancé into a kiss. “Well, you’re home now. And I’m glad I could, at least, make your morning a little better.”

            Lightning looked confused. “What are you talking about?”

            “Were you a good girl today like I told you to be?” Fang asked, running her finger down the pink haired woman’s chest.

            “Fang?” Lightning said, pushing her to arms length. “What in the hell are you talking about?”

            “The texts we sent back and forth this morning, remember?” Fang asked her.

            “Crap.” Lightning said, patting herself down. “I gotta go back to the office.” She turned to leave.

            “Why? What happened?” Fang asked her.

            “As soon as I got in, Captain Amodar wanted me out at the training center at the edge of town. I had to be there by eight thirty. I left my phone sitting on my desk all day. Forgot to grab it on my way home.”

            Fang’s face suddenly fell. “What?!”

            “Did you try calling me or something?” Lightning asked. She was a little concerned with her lover’s sudden blush.

 

Chapter Text

            Fang leaned against the low stone wall that overlooked the ocean of Gran Pulse and sighed. The breeze cooled her warm skin. If she were honest with herself, not all of the moisture gathering on her face was from the mist of the sea. She gently wiped the tears away. She never knew coming home would be so hard.

            She stiffened when she heard soft footsteps behind her. She cast a sideways glance at her visitor. She caught the sight of the pink haired soldier and relaxed a touch. “You should try and get some rest.” She offered to the woman.

            “Mm.” Lightning returned noncommittally.

            For several minutes the pair stood, content to watch the moon laze across the sky. “When I was a little girl, I used to come out here. I’d just stand here, barely able to look over this wall,” She patted the stone. “And just watch the ocean. It always calmed me down. Helped me think.”

            Lightning leaned forward, resting her arms on the banister. “There was a place like this in Bodhum.” She chuckled. “Serah and I used to go there when we were sad. Seeing the waves, watching the water made us happier. It always seemed to say that no matter how bad things were, the tide would always come back in. A new wave, with new possibilities, new opportunities.”

            Fang nodded. “Good philosophy.”

            “I’m sorry.” Lightning said, turning to look at the huntress.

            “For what?” Fang asked her.

            “For hitting you.” She said. “Back in Palumpolum.” She lowered her eyes. “It wasn’t right.”

            “You had every right to be angry with me.” Fang said. “If I were in your place, I would have decked me, too.”

            “No.” Lightning said. “I’ve been thinking about what you said. You were trying to save Vanille.” She sighed sadly. “And instead of offering to help you, I smacked you for it.” She started as she felt Fang’s hand on her shoulder.

            “What’s done is done.” Fang said, letting her know that she didn’t harbor any ill will. “I don’t blame you for it. Never will.”

            Lightning turned to look into the woman’s eyes. “I’m glad you’re with us, Fang.” She took the huntress’ hand in hers. “I’m glad you’re with me.”

            “Light…” Fang began.

            “I don’t open up easily.” Lightning said, lifting the hand she held and placed it on her cheek. “I’ve never been comfortable being close to anyone. I was never scared, I was just waiting for…”

            Fang took a chance and pulled the soldier in, leaving her arms loose so Lightning could pull away if she chose. “For the right person.”

            She rested her head on Fang’s shoulder. “I was always dedicated to Serah. To my job, my duties.” She shook her head. “I never thought about anything else.” She then met Fang’s eyes. “But ever since that night in the alley, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you.”

            Fang’s heart was lifted at the words. The pink haired girl was letting her walls down to show that she wasn’t just a hard as nails soldier. Beneath that gruff no nonsense exterior, she was still human. She was still a woman that could feel. And Fang was flattered beyond measure that Lightning had chosen her to show this side of herself to.

            “I have to be strong for Serah, for Hope.” Lightning said. “I have to be strong for everyone.” She sighed. “I’m tired, Fang.”

            “Not anymore, you don’t.” Fang said, pulling Lightning in tight. “I can be strong for both of us. Just let go, Sunshine.”

            “Tell me everything is going to work out. That we’re going to succeed and save Cocoon.” Lightning said. “If I hear you say it, I just might believe it.”

            Fang heard her and bit her lip. “I can’t.” She said, finally. “I can’t tell you that it’s gonna go down the way we want.” She pushed Lightning to arms length. “Because I care too much for you to lie to you like that.” She could see a tear slide down the soldier’s cheek. “But know this now.” She wiped it away with her thumb. “If for some reason, we’re doomed to fail, then we’re gonna go down fighting. We’re gonna shake the very pillars of heaven with how loud our screams of defiance are.” She gave Lightning a smile. “That I can promise.”

            “Thank you.” Lightning said. “For not lying to me.”

            Fang kissed her forehead. “I never will.”

            “Do you think we’re going to fail?” Lightning asked. “In your heart do you…”

            “I wish I could be sure. I know what we’re capable of. We’re strong enough to change our fates, all of us. We don’t have to bow down to what the Fal’Cie want. We can make our own destiny. But we’ve got some long odds in front of us. Only time is gonna tell and that’s a commodity we’re dangerously short of.”

            Lightning stared into Fang’s eyes. She saw truth and compassion there. “If things were different, if we weren’t fighting for our lives every step of the way, if we didn’t have to rely on each other for survival…” She swallowed. “Could you see yourself loving someone like me?”

            Fang gave her a smile. “Yes.” She offered softly. “Strong, smart, dangerously beautiful, stubborn as an Adamantoise.” She chuckled. “You’re just my type.”

            “To be honest, before I met you?” Lightning shook her head. “I didn’t even know I had a type.”

            “We’ve all got a type, Sunshine.” Fang chuckled. “Sadly, we know what your sister’s type is, don’t we?”

            Lightning buried her face in Fang’s shoulder. “Ugh. Don’t remind me.”

            “Oh, he’s not so bad a sort. He’s loving and is willing to do just about anything for his lady love. Gotta respect that.”

            “I don’t wanna think about Snow and Serah.” Lightning said. “Ever.”

            “What would you rather think about?” Fang asked her.

            Lightning smiled at her. “I wonder."

Chapter Text

            Lightning gripped the wheel in her left hand and the shifter in her right. The sunglasses made it a little hard to see, but it wasn’t anything she hadn’t dealt with before. “Make sure you get the shot, Jihl.” She said, pushing the shifter forward. “I’m not doing this one again.”

            “Cameras are hot. If you pull this off, I’ll kiss you myself.” The director offered. “We’re rolling.”

            “I should really be wearing a helmet for this.” Lightning said absently.

            “Please.” Jihl said, chuckling. “You’ve done this stunt a thousand times in your own car. I should know. I’ve paid for all your tickets.”

            Lightning chuckled. “I’m just glad you don’t take it out of my pay.”

            “Not a bad idea, though.” The woman said into the microphone. “Now concentrate.”

            Lightning nodded and took the wheel with both hands. She kept her eyes on the vehicles in front of her. It looked like everything was in place. She nodded as she pushed the pedal to the floor. The engine of the supped up new model Chevrolet Corvette roared beneath the matte black hood. She cast her eyes about the inside of the car to the roll bar. I really should be wearing a helmet for this. She thought to herself.

            Hope Estheim, the stunt coordinator of the film had suggested using green screen and computer generated imaging effects for the shot, but she’d told him that she could perform the death defying maneuver in real-time with practical effects. No CGI necessary.

            He initially balked, but Jihl Nabaat, one of the world’s leading action movie directors – and her close friend – went to bat for her. “If Claire ‘Lightning’ Farron tells you she can do it, trust her.” Jihl had said to him.

            And now, here she was, moving at close to a hundred and forty miles an hour toward a semi tractor trailer. She raced forward on the shoulder on the truck’s left side. Cars filled with extras and professional drivers filled the lanes of the three lane black top to her right.

            “Showtime.” She said to herself. She tightened her hold on the wheel and eased up next to the rig. She quickly jolted the wheel right, racing under the trailer with practiced ease. Despite what Jihl has professed, Lightning had never done anything this dangerous before. If this stunt worked, it would be the talk of the town. She came out on the far side of the trailer.

            With the easy part of the stunt completed came the phase that she was dreading. It would take every ounce of skill she could muster. The tow truck between the pair of semis was directly where she needed it to be. She flicked her eyes to the big rig beside it. She grimaced. “Snow, I need you to pick up the pace. You’re out of position.”

            “Gotcha.” He said, feeding more power to the old Peterbilt. The truck eased forward a few meters. “How’s that?”

            “Perfect.” Lightning said, nodding. “Hold it there.” She shifted again and pushed the car into greater speeds. The tow truck was tugging a stunt vehicle behind it. It was nothing more than a junk frame with the reinforced metal shell of a rust brown ’86 Pontiac Firebird. And at the angle the car was hanging from the truck, it was perfectly placed.

            A split second before the front of the Corvette was about to tap the bumper of the Pontiac, she hit a toggle on the steering wheel. Air bags on the front of the ‘Vette inflated, elevating the front of the black machine. She felt the skid plate beneath her car grind against the hood of the Firebird. She gunned it again, racing up the body of the car. She cranked the wheel to the right slightly as the Corvette caught air.

            She was in lady luck’s hands now. The Chevrolet flew from the top of the Firebird. She lost sight of the top of the truck and prayed to anyone that would listen that she’d gotten her trajectory and speed just right. For two point four seconds, she was in the air. To her, it was an eternity. The front of the car came down. She saw the top of Snow’s trailer and smiled. She hit a heartbeat later.

            She was in perfect position for the final leg of the stunt. She shifted gears again and raced forward along the reinforced cargo container that was his trailer. As the semi rounded the closed off corner of the freeway, Lightning flew off the front of the container and over the forty foot span of air that separated the highway she was on to land hard on the pavement of the four lane superhighway that ran parallel.

            The incredibly beefed up suspension of the Corvette handled the jump like a pro. Sparks flew from beneath the car as it impacted. She could feel a bit of strain on her neck, but other than that, she felt wonderful. “Please tell me you got that.”

            “Every frame.” Jihl said, happily. “That was amazing.” She said. “Go ahead and pull it over. We’ll go ahead and let Serah take it from here.”

            Lightning nodded and pulled the car off the free way to park in a large lot filled with other stunt vehicles. She pulled to a stop and climbed out. She rolled her head around on her neck, getting a series of pops. She looked over to see her sister, clad in the exact same clothing she was wearing; a pair of black jeans, a black t-shirt and a leather jacket. Serah moved up to her and hugged her. “That was so damn cool.” She said, happily. “You make me look so good.”

            “Like I’d let you do that kind of shit.” Lightning said to her. “Now go earn that money, girl.” She said, smiling.

            Ever since they were little girls, Serah had always wanted to be an actress. Through school, she’d volunteered and tried out for every role she could get. She took drama and, thanks to Lightning’s volunteering for the military to pay her way, was able to attending acting school.

            Serah had landed her first role when she was just sixteen years old. It was a small bit part as a singer’s bodyguard in a romantic comedy. Jihl Nabaat happened to be the director of the film and after Serah adlibbed a scene in which she was supposed to get shot protecting the woman, she was hooked. Serah had been her go to actress ever since.

            The pair had become a power duo in the industry in just five short years. To protect her sister, Lightning had accepted the job of being her stunt double. From a distance and from the back, the pair were near as makes no difference identical. And truth be told, there weren’t a whole hell of a lot of people that had naturally occurring pink hair.

            Lightning watched Serah slide on her sunglasses and climb into the black Corvette that wasn’t loaded to the gunnels with safety equipment and reinforcements and drove away to film a standard driving shot. She sighed and made her way to her trailer.

            “That was some fancy driving.” She heard a thick accent from behind her. She turned to see a drop dead gorgeous raven haired woman. She had on a simple pair of jeans and a t-shirt. Lightning immediately recognized her. There wasn’t a person on the planet that didn’t recognize her.

            Lightning stammered as she looked the woman over. She’d had a crush on the tanned actress since she’d first seen her on television. Legacy of the Crimson Lance was one of her favorite series when she was in high school. And this woman was the reason for it. “I uh,” She swallowed and nodded. “Thank you.” She wiped her hand on her jeans and offered it to the woman. “Lightning.”

            “I know.” Fang said, chuckling. “I’m…”

            “Fang Yun Oerba.” Lightning said. “Everyone knows.”

            Fang gave her a bright smile. “You know, I’ve always had a hell of a lotta respect for what you all do.”

            Lightning was shocked to hear the woman say that, to be honest. It was known throughout the industry that Fang did all of her own physical stunt work. “Really?” She asked the dark haired woman. “But you do your own stunts, don’t you?”

            “Except for my own car driving, yeah.” Fang said. She stepped forward. “That’s why I respect you lot so much.” She chuckled. “About a year ago, when I was filming Vengeance for Fools, I ended up falling off a motorcycle doing a buck ten. Broke my leg in three places.” She lifted her knee and got a sharp pop for her effort. “Still hasn’t healed quite right.”

            “I loved that movie.” Lightning said. “That bit where you sword fought on the motorcycles with Noel Kriess was excellently pulled off.”

            “I’ll take that as a hell of a compliment.” Fang said.

            “I didn’t know you were in this movie.” Lightning said. “I thought Noel was supposed to be Serah’s costar.”

            “He was.” Fang said, nodding. “But he had to pull out. He ended up getting in a plane crash about a week ago. Studio doesn’t wanna wait for him to recuperate. Given that I’ve always wanted to work with both Jihl and Serah, I put my hat into the ring.”

            “So you’re playing Serah’s love interest?” Lightning asked, curiously.

            “That’s right.” Fang said, grinning. “Lookin’ kinda forward to it, to be honest.”

            “Um…Serah’s actually married. To Snow Villiers, one of my stunt drivers.”

            “That’s what I’ve heard. Don’t mean I can’t enjoy kissin’ her.” Fang said, crossing her arms and grinning. “I’m really gonna enjoy the scene we have in the third act of the movie.”

            Lightning narrowed her eyes. “That’s my sister you’re talking about.”

            “You’d rather I be grossed out about having to be naked with her?”

            Lightning sputtered and stammered. “I don’t know.” She said, shaking her head. “And that’s what’s so damn bothersome.”

            “Fang?” Jilh shouted. “We need you in wardrobe.”

            “That’s my cue.” Fang said, smiling. “It was nice meeting you, Lightning.”

 

            Later that night, Lightning sat on the sofa in her trailer, watching the last movie she and Serah had filmed together. It was one of only a few films where she had actually been in front of the camera, not as a stuntwoman, but as a legit actress. Jihl had loved her and wanted her to do so more often, but Lightning absolutely hated having to act. Sisters of the Rose was also a box office bomb. It did, however have a massive cult following. Lightning realized, as she watched the film that she was nowhere near the actress her sister was.

            But by that same token, when it came to action sequences, Serah was nowhere near the physical prodigy Lightning was. So it worked out.

            Now, Lightning was content to be her sister when it was necessary. A knock came from the door of the trailer. She paused the movie and got up, opening the door. Jihl stepped in, giving her a smile. “Great job today.” She said.

            “Thanks.” Lightning said. “So…what brings you to the stunt quarter? Figured you’ve be in with the writers.”

            “Well, I was.” Jihl said, nodding. “Fang came to me earlier today. Just after she met you, in fact.”

            “Did I do something to offend her?” Lightning asked.

            “No.” Jihl shook her head immediately. “In fact quite the opposite. She was actually quite taken with you. That brings me to why I’m here. You and she are having a scene together.”

            “What do you mean?” Lightning said.

            “The warehouse scene with Cid. He’s going to have an extra bodyguard. It’s a bit part, but…”

            Lightning sighed. “You want me to act again, don’t you?”

            “Not really. All you have to do is stand there and look menacing. It’s going to be the action finale. Fang wants you and her to end up having a sort of Kung-Fu throwdown.”

            “Is she serious?” Lightning asked her. “I’m gonna have to do a fight with her and do all of Serah’s stuntwork?”

            “Serah offered to do her own work for most of it. We can reshoot what we need to later.” Jihl said. “Fang just wants a chance to work with you. On screen at the same time. The writer is punching up your lines right now. It won’t be much, I promise.”

            In all honesty, it was the first time Lightning was actually looking forward to being on screen. Getting to work with an actress that she’d fantasized about behind closed doors was a dream come true. “Alright.” Lightning said. “As long as it’s just glorified stunt work.”

 

            Lightning watched as her fellow stuntman worked. Serah and Snow were married, but you wouldn’t know it to look at them. The scene mainly consisted of Serah mopping the floor with one of the main villain’s goons.

            Serah’s right foot slammed down on the side of the huge blonde’s leg. He staggered and fell to his knees. The petite pink haired girl spun on her heel and caught Snow across the side of the face. He flipped forward and hit the wet cement with a meaty thump.

            “Cut!” Jihl said, smiling. “Nice.” She said, nodding. “Great job, Serah.”

            She gave the director a smile and knelt beside Snow. “You okay, babe?”

            He sat up and nodded. “Yeah.” He said, pulling her in. “Feeling a little domestically abused. You almost hit me that time.”

            “Could have been worse.” Serah said, looking toward Lightning. “She could have been filming with you.”

            Snow looked at Lightning and gave her a wave and a smile, getting only a glare in return. “Yeah, she would have hit me.” The elder Farron sister just nodded to him. The smirk quirking her lip stole a good amount of menace from the look she shot him.

            “Alright, Lightning, you’re up.” Jihl said.

            Lightning stood on top of the building, waiting for the go ahead. She turned to see Fang standing beside Serah on the rooftop of the next building over. Her sister was laughing at something Fang said and shaking her head. Fang then leaned in and whispered something that caused Serah to open her eyes wide before turning to regard her in surprise.

            “Lightning!” Jihl shouted in her ear.

            “What!?” She shouted back.

            “Pay attention. I said you can go. Cameras are hot.”

            “Sorry. I got distracted.” Lightning said, turning to look at Fang one last time before taking off. The helicopter several dozen meters above her covered the action as she sprinted across the rooftop and leapt, taking the distance between the pair of buildings in a single jump. She hit the slightly lower surface and executed a forward shoulder roll to absorb the impact and kept running. She closed on a large air conditioning unit and jumped, using her hands to brace herself as she vaulted over it in a single hop. She hit the ground and never broke stride. She came to the edge roof and the scene that was the whole reason she steadfastly refused to let her sister do the stunt, despite her complaining and bitching about wanting to.

            Lightning saw Rygdea, another of her stunt team running in through the door at the top of the fire escape right on cue. She dove off the ledge and into a front flip that placed her boots square with the skylight on the roof of the building below. She crashed through the glass and landed hard on the airbag that had been set up.

            Serah came into the building through the door as Lightning got to her feet and moved away from the air bag. “I could have done that.” Serah said, matter of fact.

            “I’m not letting you jump forty feet through safety glass.” Lightning said, shaking her head. “I don’t care how crazy or brave you are.”

            “Yeah, I wouldn’t let her do it either.” Fang said, smiling.

            “But you would do it, though wouldn’t you?” Lightning asked her.

            “Yeah, but I’m an adrenaline junky and a masochist.” Fang said. “That was pretty slick, though.”

            “What were you two talking about, back there?”

            “Oh, just about the finale being filmed tomorrow.” Fang said. “You learn your lines?”

            “Why did you wanna do a scene with me so badly, anyway?” Lightning asked.

            “Just did.” Fang said, turning to head out.

            Lightning watched her go and sighed. Her eyes trailed down to the woman’s behind. She wasn’t sure, but she was pretty sure there was a swagger there that wasn’t there before. She saw Fang stop and looked back up to her face. The brunette was grinning widely at her. She winked before leaving the room.

 

            Lightning stood cracking her knuckles as she stared at Fang and her sister. Both were being held tightly from behind by a pair of henchman. “You two are really a pair of stupid bitches, aren’t you?” Cid asked. “I mean, look at you.” He stepped around the table to stand in front of them both. “You were supposed to be the baddest agents in the bureau…” He quickly slapped the pair of them across the face. “And now you’re just…” He shook his head. He looked to the men behind them. “Take ‘em to the river and dump ‘em. Make sure they don’t float.” He turned his back to them.

            “You really are an idiot.” Serah said, chuckling. “You think I’m alone? I’m an FBI agent, you stupid fuck. I’m wired.”

            He turned to look at her, smiling. “I know.” He said to her. “Whole building’s got jammers. No one can hear you.”

            A look of fear crossed Serah’s features. There and gone. “They’re gonna storm this building any minute. Once I’m out of communication, they have orders to move in. Standard procedure.”

            “I’m not worried about your team.” He snapped his fingers. Four bodies fell from the rafters, smacking into the concrete. Each was riddled with bullet holes. “They weren’t quite up to the job.”

            “You son of a bitch.” Serah growled at him. “I’m gonna cut out your fuckin’ spine and feed it to you.” She struggled to get away from the man behind her, but her held her fast.

            Cid turned to Lightning. “Put a bullet in them. Then get rid of them.” He said to her.

            “You got it.” She said, pulling a semi-automatic pistol from inside her black blazer. “It really is a shame.” She pointed the gun at Fang. “Kinda thought you were cute.”

            “You’re not my type.” Fang growled. “I don’t fuck lackeys.” She loosed a hard kick to the bottom of Lightning’s right hand, flipping the gun into the air toward Serah. She shot her other foot out and caught Lightning in the chest, sending her staggering back.

            Serah slammed her head back into the man’s face. He let go of her as he gripped his broken nose. Serah reached up and snatched the gun from the air with her left hand and dropped to her knee. She braced the bottom of the pistol with her right palm and opened fire. The gun rang out as she dropped the men around her.

            Fang rolled forward, pulling her captor with her. He slammed down onto his back, releasing her as she landed on him. She drove her elbow back into his head, knocking him clean before kicking herself to her feet.

            Cid stepped up to her and loosed a hard haymaker. She ducked below it, drilling him square in the crotch. He let out a strangled grunt and staggered back against the table, clutching his bruised genitals.

            Lightning shot forward, her right foot leading. As Fang rose, batting the strike away, the pink haired woman was already issuing a follow up strike. Fang danced out of the way of the strike. The lithe fighter followed her, throwing fist after fist and kick after kick.

            Fang dodged and parried, trying to find her own opening for an offensive. Lightning spun on her heel and caught Fang in the side of the shin with a hard reverse kick. The brunette flipped into the air. As Fang was airborne, Lightning struck again, her boot catching the brunette in the ribs, hurling her back into a crate, smashing the wood to splinters.

            Lightning rolled her head about on her neck, eliciting several angry cracks. “Is that best you can do?”

            Fang threw the wood off of herself and sat there moment, resting her arm across her knee. “Not by a damn sight.” She rolled onto her back and kicked herself to her feet. “Let’s try this again.” She said, rolling her shoulders and lifted her hands. She began bobbing on her feet, loosely.

            Lightning had seen this before. She knew the woman was good. Damn good. And now, Fang was going to prove it. She tried a forward kick, but Fang slapped it aside without effort. Lightning shot in with a fast salvo of right-left combinations. Each blow was likewise parried. All that registered was a blur of motion that smacked into her face. Her head shot back, trying to dodge a strike that had already landed. God damn, she’s fast. She thought to herself.

            She realized that she would have to up her game. So she went full force. And Fang had absolutely no problem keeping up. The pair clashed in the middle of the warehouse, their fists and feet smacking and cracking into each other.

            Both women broke, apart, breathing heavily. “Too bad you gotta lose.” Fang said, rushing forward. Lightning spun on her heel, looking to take the woman across the face as she came in. Fang ducked below the strike and delivered a hard shot to Lightning’s ribs. As she staggered back, Fang jumped and spun. Her boot whirled around and impacted the side of Lightning’s face. She was lifted from her feet and spiraled about in the air before crashing to the ground, not able to rise.

            “Cut!” Jihl said. “Fuck me running, cut, print, sign, sealed and fucking delivered!” She moved out into the warehouse. “That was fantastic!”

            Fang reached down and helped Lightning up. “You alright?” She asked the pink haired stuntwoman.

            “Yeah.” Lightning said, nodding. “Glad you managed to pull that kick at the last minute. That would have broke my fuckin’ neck.”

            “I’m a professional, sweetheart.” Fang said, happily. “Thanks for doin’ this for me.”

            “It was fun.” Lightning said. “Not every day I get to say I went toe to toe with Fang Yun Oerba.”

            Lightning was allowed a couple hours of rest before the shot was reset so she could do Serah’s more physical stunt work.

            By the end of the day, she was just looking forward to a hot shower and a good night’s sleep.

            She climbed out of the shower in her trailer, drying her hair and walked into the bedroom in the back. What she saw made her stop in her tracks. The towel slowly slid from her hand and down to the floor.

            Fang, nude of form lie upon her bed, staring at her. “I was going to ask you out for dinner and a dancing, but your sister said you prefer the direct approach.” The stunning actress rose to her knees and moved toward her. “I figure it doesn’t really get any more direct than this.”

            Lightning tried desperately to say something, anything. But she couldn’t seem to form words.

            Fang chuckled. “That’s what they all say.” She said as she pulled the stuntwoman in for a kiss.

Chapter Text

Claire Farron hated her job. It was quite obvious that she hated the customers. She hated her coworkers and she hated the shit pay and shit hours. For the past six months, she’d been doing her level best to put on a bright face, but she was learning that she was not cut out for customer service.

The reasons for her current loathing sat at the table near the window of the small coffee shop. The group of University students laughed and chatted excitedly. They were being loud as hell, but not overly disruptive, thus she didn’t have a sufficient reason to boot them out. But they were a messy group and rarely, if ever, tipped. When they first came in, her coworker Jihl had waited on them, cranking her charm and sexy up to eleven. Given that the woman made a living on her elegant good looks and hourglass figure, she figured horny college boys would be all over that. And they were. They continuously undressed her with their eyes.

And stiffed her completely. She tried several times, but never got more than lewd looks and offhanded appraisals of how good she looked in her uniform. Soon, she stopped trying and passed the table off to Claire.

Given that she didn’t give a shit, she didn’t put out any kind of extra effort. And there was no appreciable difference to the way they treated her as they treated Jihl. The only difference is the older barista took it personally. And she took it out on Claire. Now, every single time the group came in, she was assigned to them, regardless of whose section they sat down in. And every time they left, their table was in shambles. She groaned when one of them spilled their large mocha over the table and onto the floor. She gathered up a hand towel and moved over, plastering a fake smile on her face.

“Yeah, sorry about that.” He said, running his hands through his hair. “Got kinda carried away.” She knew full well he wasn’t sorry in the least.

“It’s alright.” She said, shaking her head. “Happens all the time.” She quickly wiped the mess up and knelt to dry up the spill on the floor. She took the empty cup and tossed it in the trash and threw the hand towel in the bucket. She washed her hands and quickly refilled his coffee. She took it back to him and received a smarmy smile for her efforts. She wanted nothing more than to punch his teeth through the back of his head, but she didn’t. She turned and left, going back about her business.

She cast her eyes to the back of the coffee house to see the tall statuesque brunette sitting and watching her through a pair of designer sunglasses. For the past two weeks she’d been in to just observe the pink haired barista. Claire had to admit, she was intrigued by the woman. Her heart sped up a little when she arrived a few hours before her shift was over.

The girl moved with a sensual grace that she really liked. She continued to watch the woman as the days went by. There was something familiar about her, but Claire couldn’t place it. As she began cleaning up for the end of her shift, the dark haired beauty would rise to her feet, toss a twenty dollar bill on the table and take her leave. The smile never left her face.

“Who is that?” She’d finally asked Maqui, one of her fellow employees. “She looks familiar.”

“I have no idea. But she’s hot.” He said, smiling. “And she keeps staring at you. You should totally ask her out.”

Claire looked at him, then rolled her eyes and shoved him away from her. “She’s probably some creepy stalker or something.”

“Only you would think that.” He said, shaking his head. “Woman shows an interest and you immediately think she’s some creepo.”

She ignored him and finished her work to clock out.

When she arrived to work the next day, she learned that things were about to take a turn for the worse. Her boss, one Lebreau Rider had gathered all of the employees together with what she was sure would be great news.

“I’ve got something to tell everyone.” Lebreau’s sickeningly sweet voice was filled with so much happiness and cheer, that Claire was sure she could feel her blood sugar spike. It was one of the few things she absolutely hated about Lebreau. The woman did her best to be everyone’s friend. And Claire couldn’t stand it. Not for the first time, she found herself longing for her days in the Guardian Corp. She missed the regimented lifestyle, the physical training. She missed…all of it.

She had no one to blame but herself for her discharge. Beating the shit out of your commanding officer tended to get frowned upon. Especially when he ends up in a wheelchair for life, sucking his meals through a straw.

And sadly, this was the only job, out of the hundreds she’d applied for that had called her back. And she’d been regretting handing the woman her application ever since.

“Starting next week, our little shop is going to be one of the locations for the new Oerba Yun Fang movie.” She was so excited that part of her sentence was so high pitched, Claire would swear only dogs could hear it. “They’ve already put out a casting call for extras. Yuj and Claire? You two are going to be in the movie!” She looked at the pair of them with excitement in her eyes. The young blue haired boy smiled brightly.

Claire frowned heavily. “Why do I have to do this?” She asked, coldly.

Everyone in the room looked at her in complete shock. “What do you mean, why do you have to do this?” Lebreau asked. “You’re going to be in a movie, Claire. Isn’t that exciting?”

“Not really.” Claire said. “I can barely stand dealing with the customers we have now. I don’t wanna have to deal with a bunch of Tinseltown elitists.”

“I can’t believe you’re being such a misery gus.” Lebreau said, frowning.

“Look, I don’t even watch most movies, let alone wanna be in one.” Claire said. “Let Jihl do it.” She said, pointing to the elder woman. “She’d probably look better on camera anyway.”

“The casting director already said she wants you and Yuj.” Lebreau said. “And I’ve agreed.”

Claire narrowed her eyes. “So you’re saying you volunteered me?”

“That’s right.” Lebreau said, crossing her arms. “It’s good publicity for the shop and it’s extra revenue. They’re gonna be paying you five hundred gil a day. That’s on top of your wage.”

Claire had to admit, five hundred gil was a lot of money. “How many days work is it?”

“At least a week.” Lebreau offered.

Twenty five hundred gil for one week was a hell of a bonus, Claire had to admit. “Fine.” She said, resignedly.

 

When she’d told Serah about what was happening, the girl squealed so loud that she nearly blasted Claire’s eardrums out. “That’s amazing. You’re going to be a movie star.”

“I’m an extra serving coffee.” Claire said, dismissively. “It’s not that big a deal. Probably won’t even be credited.”

“Maybe you’ll meet someone on set.” Serah offered, teasing.

“Stop, Serah. I’m not on the pull.”

“You’re twenty one, Claire.” Serah said. “And I don’t even think you’ve been kissed by a boy.”

“Well, no shit.” The elder Farron sister shot to her younger sibling. “Given that I’m a lesbian.”

"How do you even know?” Serah asked her. “The last date you went on…”

“Was with Noel, that dark haired guy that works for the city.” Claire interrupted.

“He was cute. I don’t know why…”

“I ended up making out with his sister, Yuel.” Claire said.

“What?” Serah asked her.

“Long story short, when I got to his house, he was still getting ready. I was on the sofa waiting for him and his little sister came in. She was in a pair of boy shorts and a tank top. She started chatting me up and we just kinda clicked.” She sighed. “When he came down the stairs ready to go, he saw me on the couch with Yuel on top of me trying to drill my tonsils out with her tongue. He went ballistic.”

That’s why you two never had a second date.” Serah said, cocking her head. “I always wondered.”

“He told me that if I came anywhere near her again, he’d bury me in a maintenance tunnel and no one would find my body.”

“Yeesh.” Serah said. “But this does sound like a good opportunity. Maybe it could be your big break into stardom.”

“I don’t wanna be a movie star, Serah.” Claire snarled.

“You’ve gotta do something with your life, Claire. You aren’t a Marine anymore. You need to accept that.”

“You don’t think I have?” Her sister shouted.

“No!” Serah said. “I don’t think you have. Because you sit here every night field stripping the gun-blade that you’re never going to use again. You work out almost constantly. You still act like you’re in the Guardian Corps. It’s been half a year and you still look like you’re in the Corps.

Claire stared at her sister. The girl was right. But she couldn’t help it. Being in the Guardian Corps was the best thing that ever happened to her. It was where she belonged. The contentment she felt when she was in the thick of it was what she craved. She was the youngest person on record to join the corps at the age of fifteen. She’d set a precedent and she’d been on the fast track ever since.

Right up until Major Cid Raines tried to pull rank to get inside her pants. He’d learned the hard way not to do so. She wasn’t necessarily surprised when, after beating the ever loving shit out of him and pretty much ending his military career, she was court-martialed.

Serah though that she should have gotten a lawyer and tried to fight it, but Claire refused. Cid was a dirtbag and a piece of shit, but he was a good commander. Yes, he was in the wrong for pulling what he did, but she went overboard when she attacked him. They spoke to each other after her dismissal and realized that they were both wrong, apologized and left it at that. Any other way, it would have resulted in a horrible scandal and a lot of ‘he said, she said’ and neither of them wanted that kind of drama. So she just accepted her discharge and went on to the private sector.

At first, she did her best to get security and law enforcement jobs, but she quickly learned that the stigma of a court-martial was a tough one to shake.

Now, she served coffee to snobby writers, emo teenagers and the jet set. It was honest work, but it wasn’t what Claire ‘Lightning’ Farron was meant to do. “I’m going to bed.” Claire said, turning and moving to her bedroom.

Serah watched her sister and sighed heavily. She knew that Claire needed something to give her the lust for life that the military had taken away from her. If she didn’t, she was afraid of what would happen. She was afraid that at some point, Claire would find a use for the meticulously cared for gun-blade she kept around the house.

 

Claire was tired, sore and absolutely fucking pissed. There were two reasons for this. First, was that her brunette admirer hadn’t shown up at all. That depressed her, to be honest. She was starting to enjoy the woman’s presence. She waited on her, but never heard her speak. The woman always responded with either a simple nod or shake of the head. But getting to see those sparkling green eyes over the top of her expensive sunglasses was enough. That and the woman always tipped well.

Speaking with her sister had actually made her think. She was actually going to talk to the woman today and find out more about her, beyond what kind of coffee she liked. But of course, it was just her luck that the gorgeous brunette was a no-show. “Figures.” She’d said quietly to herself.

The second reason was she was stuck working a double shift. It didn’t matter that she’d opened the shop at five o’clock this morning. Lebreau had sprung it on her literally five minutes before she was due to clock out for her shift at three. She asked why, Lebreau was honest, she had to give the woman that, but her reasoning made Claire wanna stuff her gun-blade up the woman’s ass and pull the trigger on auto-fire until she emptied the magazine.

“They start filming tomorrow and I have an appointment at the hair salon.”

“You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me.” Claire growled at her. “You want me to work a double so you can get a fucking hair cut?” She shook her head. “No. Screw you.”

Lebreau just gave her smile. “Well. I’m going to the Salon and the store’s going to stay open. So you can either clock out to go home…for the last time, or you can stay and keep your job. Okay?” She patted Claire on the cheek and left. To be fair, she thought long and hard about tossing her apron and uniform on Lebreau’s desk and splitting then and there.

But in the end, she stayed. Because whether she was proud of what she did or not, she took pride in her ability to at the very least, do it right. All day men and women from the production team of the film had come in and out snapping photos, taking measurements and generally making nuisances of themselves. She did, at least give them all credit. They ordered plenty of coffee and did tip decently. She’d cleared an extra hundred dollars just in tips alone. She put on her best fake smile and kept up appearances, but she was just plain tired.

Now, she wanted nothing more than to go home, soak in a hot bath with a book and a glass of brandy.

She groaned under her breath as she heard the bell over the door jingle. “Welcome to Lebreau’s.” She said, not looking up. “I’ll be with you in just a minute.”

“Take your time, love.” Her newest customer said. Her voice reached out and caressed Claire’s ears. The Pulsian accent made her sound exotic, yet rustic at the same time.

She turned to look at the woman. The brunette beauty was there, staring at her with those same emerald green eyes. Claire had never stood beside the woman before. But as she did, staring at her, she realized the woman was taller than her own five foot eight inches by fair amount. Though she suspected the three inch heels on her boots might have something to do with that. Her long raven black hair fell in a careless wash about her shoulders and down her back. Her tanned skin only added to her exotic look. She was currently wearing a pair of hip-hugger jeans that rode low and a tank top of charcoal. Her stomach was toned and looked like you could bounce a quarter off of it. Her arms were corded and sported a tattoo of some sort on her left shoulder. The woman was folding a pair of sunglasses and hooking them onto the neck of her tank top.

She walked with a sensual grace and dropped down into a chair. She crossed her legs and leaned back in the seat, resting her elbow on the table. She was content to watch Claire. “Anyone ever told you it’s not polite to stare?” The mirth in her voice and the humor in her eyes revealed her lack of offense.

“Says the woman that’s been sitting in the back of the shop ogling me every day for the past three weeks.” Claire said, crossing her arms. “Why have you been watching me, anyway?”

“I think you’re interesting.” She cocked her head. “You have no idea how I am, do you?”

She shook her head. “Gotta admit, you look kinda familiar, but…”

“Thank god.” The woman said, rising to her feet. She offered her hand. “Oerba Yun Fang.”

Claire’s eyes widened as she took the woman’s hand. “Seriously?”

“You know, you’re cute when you gawk like that.” Fang said, grinning.

“What are…why are you here?” Claire asked, suddenly star struck. She wasn’t much of a movie person, but she knew the name of one of, if not the biggest female action stars in cinematic history. She remembered thinking as she and Serah watched some of her movies that it looked hokey as hell. Seeing the woman up close, the way she moved, she wasn’t so sure that it was all Tinseltown magic. Oerba Yun Fang looked the part of a true badass. And all of that made her nervous. “And why would you be interested in me?”

“You really don’t remember do you?” Fang asked her. As Claire cocked her head, Fang chuckled. “Granted it’s been five years.”

“We’ve met before?” Claire asked her.

“In Bodhum. I was there with my little sister Vanille. You were fresh into the Guardian Corps. A group of boys decided that they were gonna pick on the little girl from Gran Pulse. You swept in like the hero and beat the shit out of all of them. Sent ‘em all packin’.”

“The little red-headed girl?” Claire asked. “That was your sister?” As Fang nodded, she smiled.

“I was there filming. You and your detachment were doing security for our shoot.” She moved closer to the girl. “I haven’t forgotten what you’d done for Vanille. That’s why I had to be sure you were the same girl I knew back then. I read your file. Found out that you weren’t part of the Corps anymore. I’ve been workin’ up the nerve to…” She stopped and turned when the bell over the door rang.

A pair of men barely out of their teens stepped in, looking the place over.

“Sorry, gentlemen. We’re closing for the night.” Claire said.

“We know.” One of them said, flipping off the OPEN sign. Both men then pulled sawed off shotguns from beneath their jackets. “Let’s get this over with.” He said, pointing the gun at her while the other pointed his at the brunette.

Fang froze, not wanting to provoke him. She was, however immediately impressed with the pink haired woman.

Claire stepped forward and crossed her arms, raising an eyebrow at the pair. “I hate to be the one to piss in your Cheerios, boys but this isn’t the first time I’ve had a gun pointed at me.”

He stepped closer and pressed the gun against her forehead. “You give me any shit, bitch and it’ll definitely be your last.”

“Do it.” Claire said, shrugging. “Take your shot. Right now, you’re looking at maybe two years. You squeeze that trigger, that’s murder two, motherfucker. That’s life. You’ll spend the rest of your days afraid of the showers.” She pointed up at the roof. “See those little glass globes? Those are cameras, genius. And just to let you know, they’re high def. That means the footage they’re collecting is good enough to count the peachfuzz on your neck. So say cheese, asshole.”

“Then let’s get this over quickly.” He said. “Cash. Now.”

“No.” Claire said, shaking her head. “Worst you can do is shoot me. I was a soldier, numb-nuts. I was ready to die a long time ago.” She sighed. “But since I kind of wanna impress the really hot girl behind me…” She quickly and harshly smacked the bottom of his right hand. The short barreled weapon flipped up into the air. She snatched it and quickly pressed it to his forehead. “Your biggest mistake was holding your gun too tightly and being too nervous.”

None of the three of them had seen her move. “How did you do that so quickly?”

“There was a reason they called me Lightning in the Corps. You might wanna tell your pal to drop his gun. Otherwise you lose a kneecap.”

“You don’t have the…” The second gunman began.

He was interrupted as she lowered the gun and fired into the first man’s knee. He screamed and dropped to the floor.

Fang went for it. While the second robber was paying attention to Claire, she took a step and spun. Her heel arced around, catching the gunman across the face. He was lifted from his feet and spun in the air. He hit the floor hard. The shotgun went flying from his hands.

Claire looked at her and nodded. “Nice work.” She said, grinning. “Why don’t you go call the Security Detachment while I deal with these two assholes?”

Fang did as she was told while Claire tied the pair up. The officers took both women’s statements. Fang used her clout to cut through most of the paperwork. “Claire’s my new bodyguard.” She said, looking at the pink haired woman. “Her first day.”

The men were willing to leave it at that.

“Your bodyguard?” She asked, looking at the brunette.

“That’s what I was here for. Just kind of thinking of the best way to ask you.”

“The direct approach never seemed to be a problem for you.”

Fang bit her lip. “You’re kind of intimidating, Lightning.”

“Okay, but why me?”

“Three reasons.” Fang said. She began pacing. “One, it’s bloody obvious you keep yourself tight.” She motioned to the ambulance. “You haven’t let what you know go to pot. Two, you don’t belong here, in a place like this. It’s like watching a jungle cat pace around in a really small cage. It’s painful. You were meant to be in the thick of it. Fighting for a living. Protecting those you care about.”

She had to admit, Fang wasn’t wrong. “You said there were three reasons.” Claire said after a moment.

“You’re attractive as hell.” Fang said. “And I’m betting you look absolutely dynamite in a suit.”

She couldn’t help but be reminded of what Serah had said. She needed to find something to do with her life. And she needed to find someone.

Now she was being handed the opportunity of a lifetime on a silver platter. And that meant spending time around this beautiful woman to boot.

“I’ve got a resignation letter to write.” Claire said, smiling.

Fang nodded. “You’ve just made my day.” She moved closer to the pink haired woman. “And I think this is five years coming.” She pulled Claire in and kissed her fiercely. Lean strong arms snaked around her waist.

 

Serah heard the front door open and rose from her bed, pulling on a long shirt. She ran from her room, and thundered down the stairs. “Where the hell have you…” She stopped as she saw her sister standing side by side with… “Oh. My. God.”

Fang looked at the younger Farron sister and waved. “Hi.”

“You’re…you’re…you’re…” She stammered.

Fang chuckled and leaned over. “I think your sister needs a reboot.”

Claire reached up and tapped Serah on the head.

“Oerba Yun Fang.” The girl finally said. “Thank you.” She added to her sister. “What are you doing here?”

“I offered your sister a job.” Fang said happily. “She said yes.”

“Doing what?” Serah asked. She saw the blush on Claire’s face and smiled.

“She’s my new bodyguard.” Fang said.

Serah squealed happily and threw her arms about Fang’s neck, hugging her tightly. “Thankyouthankyouthankyou.”

“Okay, okay.” Fang said. She looked at Lightning who stood with her arms crossed, scowling at her sister. She pushed the girl to arm’s length. “What’s all the thank you’s for?”

“She’s been miserable since she got out of the military. It’s been really depressing. Having her doing what she loves is gonna be so good for her.” She looked to her older sister. “Having you sit around the house moping was painful to watch. Sometimes I was afraid you were going to use your gunblade and shoot yourself.”

Lightning pulled her sister in. “I’d never do that, Serah. I’ve never leave you alone.”

“That’s her problem, Light.” Fang said, crossing her arms.

“What do you mean?” Serah asked.

“You were afraid that she was losing the will to carry on. She was living for you, not for herself. The Corps gave her a purpose. Without it, you felt like she didn’t have one.”

Serah nodded, understanding . “You were just going through the motions for my sake. That was hard to watch. Mostly because I couldn’t do anything to help you.” She looked at Fang and gave her an appreciative smile. “I guess you’re not just a hero in the movies.”

“This new job…” Claire began to her sister. “It’s going to take me away from home a lot.”

Serah sighed and pulled her sister in for another hug. “I guess I’ll just have to live with it. It makes you happy. That means more to me than anything.”

“You know…” Fang began. “On the way over here, Light said you were pretty good in a fight. Can always use an extra pair of hands. And I’m sure Vanille wouldn’t mind having a cute little pink haired bodyguard her own age around.” As Serah’s eyes grew wide, Fang chuckled. “I hate to see a family broken up.”

The Farron sisters looked at each other, a look of pure joy on their faces.

 

Snow didn’t understand it. He looked at the phone and shook his head. He’d been trying desperately to get in touch with Serah for a week. He nodded and rose to his feet, taking his coat in his hands and pulled it onto his shoulders. He made it to the door of his apartment and stopped when there was a knock. He opened to see a UPS man standing there. “Snow Villiers?” He asked.

“Yeah.” He said, curiously.

The delivery man offered him a small brown box. “Here you are.” He then held up the clipboard. “Sign here.” He said, tapping the bottom of the page. Snow did as he was instructed. The driver ripped off a copy of the invoice and handed it to him. “Have a good day.” He said, turning back to his truck.

Snow stood there a moment staring at the box. It didn’t have a return address on it, but her recognized Serah’s handwriting on the top. He smiled and ripped it open. He could see a blue felt covered box. He pulled it out along with the envelope inside. He flipped up the lid of the box to see the matching necklace he’d given her months ago. “What the…?” He lifted it up to look at it. He then opened the envelope.

 

Snow,

I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you this in person, but I know you. I know you would try and desperately talk me out of it and I didn’t want to have to see your face when I said these words, because it would hurt too much.

We can’t be together any longer. I know this hurts, but in truth, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. The truth is, I was using you. I was with you because you were safe. You were normal. You were good to me and I’ll always remember that, but…you’re a man. I was never truly attracted to you. And I can’t keep on living that lie.

I do love you and I always will, but it will never be in the way that you wanted. I want you to understand that. But I’ve been offered an opportunity that I can’t ignore. It will allow me to grow both as a person and as a woman. It’ll allow me to be honest with myself. But before I can do that, I have to be honest with you.

I’m sorry. I’m giving back the necklace because it should be given to someone that loves you as much as you’ll love them. That person just wasn’t me.

 

“Who was that?” He heard a soft feminine voice behind him. Jihl Nabaat stepped out around him, drying her hair with a towel. “What’s that?”

He sighed and turned to look at her. “It’s from Serah.” He said, handing the envelope to her.

Jihl draped the towel around her naked shoulders and read it. “Huh.” She said, shrugging. “Always knew she was wrong for you.”

“What do you know?” He asked her, flopping down onto the sofa. “I loved her.”

Jihl tossed the envelope on the credenza beside the door. “If you loved her so damn much,” She moved over and straddled his broad lap. She then leaned down and pressed her lips to his. “I wouldn’t be here, now would I?”

He chuckled and gripped her butt firmly in his hands. The glass in his front window shattered. Jihl felt a sharp pain in the back of her head. Snow likewise felt a sharp stab of pain in his forehead before his and her worlds faded into nothing. Neither heard the distant crack that heralded their deaths, albeit after the fact.

The pair slumped against the back of the sofa, dead.

Captain Rygdea pulled out his cellular phone and dialed a number. “Hey.” He said as he began pulling the rifle apart. “Yeah, it’s me. All taken care of. You were right. He was bangin’ her.” He then smiled and chuckled. “Gotcha, Light. Good luck, kiddo. Good working with you again. Even if it was only by proxy.” He turned back to the distant apartment. “Yeah, I hate cheaters too. Reason I’m still single.”

Lightning hung up the phone and stood, staring out over the balcony of the five star hotel. She heard the soft footsteps of her lover and client move up behind her. Strong arms slowly encircled her waist from behind. “You should be in bed.”

“I was. But there was this big gaping hole in my bed where my girlfriend sleeps.” She turned Lightning around and pressed her against the banister. “Something on your mind?”

“Boy trouble.” Lightning said. “But it’s been handled.”

“Do I wanna know?” Fang asked. “And more to the point, should I be jealous?”

Lightning shook her head. “No.” She said, smiling widely. “Let’s go back to bed. Got a big day tomorrow.”

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 1

 

            Lightning kept her shield up and her sword at the ready. She had to be careful. He was larger by a damn sight and had reach with his massive two hand sword. The hide armor he wore was thick and could deflect arrows and blade alike. So she had to be smart. He was a warrior of skill and had survived many, many battles. She would not be the first member of the royal family he’d dispatched.

            Her father had fallen victim to his mighty flamberge just one year before. “Now you see your end, Princess,” He growled, lunging at her.

            Lightning, living up to her name rolled forward as his weapon crashed to the ground. A huge spray of dirt flew into the air. A heartbeat slower and she’d have been done. But she was fleeter of foot than any he’d ever encountered. Her blade caught him across the back of his knees as she moved past him. He fell to the ground.

            She came back around, her sword resting on the side of his neck. “Do you yield, Torgar?” She asked him. “I’ll only ask you once.”

            He sighed and rested his blade upon the ground. “I yield,” He said, his voice steady. “You are the victor.”

            Lightning smiled and stepped back from him. The crowd about them cheered and howled. She turned to look up at her father, sitting in the royal box of the coliseum. He looked down on her with pride and joy. As did her mother and sister. She held her sword up, enjoying the revelry and celebrity.

            It was a happy time for her. She had attained the impossible. A dream she’d had since childhood. To be the greatest swordswoman in the entirety of the Kingdom of Bodhum.

            She met her family’s eyes and offered a bow. Her father rose to speak, gesturing for all to be quiet. His wife, Lightning’s mother, rose beside him. How regal and beautiful she looked. Both she and her younger sister Serah were youthful reflections of the woman’s angelic and unearthly beauty.

            “People of Bodhum…” The King began. “Hear me and…” His words were suddenly cut off as a long red-fletched arrow pierced his throat. His voice was quickly reduced to nothing but a choking gurgle.

            Lightning’s mother let out a shriek of sorrow before an arrow punched into her right eye. She flew backward into her seat, limply.

            Lightning, like her mother, screamed in horror so loudly and sharply that it pained her throat. Cid Raines, her father’s personal guard whipped his blade free, grabbing Serah and pulling her behind him, using his own considerable bulk to shield her. Lightning turned to see a host of hide-clad warriors armed with bows and arrows loosing shaft after shaft. Each missile hit home, taking a Farron royal soldier down.

            She growled and ran toward the edge of the arena, her shield held aloft. She felt the arrows smack into the heavy steel barrier. She cast aside the dulled practice sword, knowing it would suit ill for actual combat. She leaped, clearing the wall to land in a crouch at the base of the bleachers. She kept her shield up and reached for the blade of one of her fallen comrades.

            Her hands felt comfortable on the hilt of the weapon. The Farron family crest was etched into the crossguard of the blade. She rose to her feet and charged the first brute she found. He was a tremendous specimen that abandoned his bow and drew a long bone hafted spear from his back. He whipped it about and lunged at her. The strength behind the blow would have run her through. She turned aside, spinning like a dancer. Her blade came around in one elegant sweep. The edge of the razor sharp sword opened his neck all the way back to his spine. Blood erupted from his throat like a geyser as he pitched forward.

            She jumped onto his back as he fell, her blade drawn back. She leaped from his tumbling corpse, thrusting her sword down into the side of another enemy’s shoulder, just below his neck. The blade slid in to the hilt. She raised her shield to deflect an arrow as she tore her sword free. Blood again burst forth into the air behind her.

            The people of Bodhum ran, desperately trying to get free of the carnage. Lightning never stopped screaming as she cut a bloody swath through the men that had taken her father from her. Her throat was raw and her voice was going hoarse. Her armor was covered in enemy blood and viscera. Her blade had become slick in her hand, and still she screamed.

 

            “My lady!” She heard a voice dive into the night of her mind, ripping her from the dream. “Wake up, my lady.” She was being shaken into consciousness.

            Lightning opened her eyes to see her handmaiden, Jihl sitting upon the side of her bed. “Jihl?” She asked, her voice rough and hoarse. She wiped her eyes. “What happened?” Her throat hurt. She reached weakly for the water pitcher on her bedside table.

            The elder woman quickly poured a glass of the cool liquid. “You were having a nightmare again, my lady.” She handed Lightning the glass. “You were screaming in your sleep.”

            Lightning took the glass and drained it quickly. It immediately felt better on her parched throat. “I’m sorry,” She said, handing the goblet back to the woman. “I didn’t mean to worry you.”

            She received a warming smile from the bespectacled handmaiden. “It is no bother, my lady.” She eased Lightning back on her bed and sat beside her, comforting her. “Do you remember what you dreamed of, your grace?”

            “The day my parents died.” Lightning said. “It’s been six years. One would think that I would have gotten over the grief.”

            “If I may speak freely?” Jihl asked. Lightning nodded to her. “Mourning knows no schedule, your grace. My husband Dysley had been gone from me for almost fifteen years. On rare nights when I find myself alone, I still weep for him. I weep for the loss of his arms about me.” She sighed. “It gets easier with time, but the loss of a loved one is a pain that will never truly vanish. The best we can hope for is to find someone that makes the pain easier to bear.”

            Lightning looked at the woman and offered a sincere smile. “Like Captain Raines?”

            Jihl blushed. “If your grace will pardon my candor, that is none of your business,” She said, tapping Lightning on the nose earning her a giggle from the younger woman.

            “You won’t hear any complaint from me. You’ve both served this family since before I was born. You both deserve a bit of happiness.” Lightning said. “Thank you for being here, Jihl. I don’t know what I would do without you.”

            “You would endure, my lady. As you always have.” The woman said, leaning in and pecking her on the forehead. “The night is yet to be done, my lady. You should get some more rest.”

            “Thank you, Jihl.” Lightning said, nodding to the woman.

            “If you’ve need of anything, do not hesitate, your grace.” She rose from the bed and swept from the room.

            Lightning watched her go, thankful, not for the first time, of the woman’s motherly touch. She’d often been Lightning’s salvation on nights such as this. When the eldest Farron sister’s dreams turned dark and loathsome, Jihl Nabaat had been the silent ear that listened, the strong shoulder that she wept on and arms that held her as she cried.

            Which was the reason the woman lived in the finest room in the palace, short of the royal quarters. Jihl’s daughters; Yuna and Lulu were dear to Lightning and would want for nothing. Though their mother was pledged to serve the royal family for life, Lightning, five years ago, as a gift for the woman’s service, vowed that the Nabaat family’s pledge to serve would end with Jihl. Her twinborn daughters would be free to live their lives as they wished with no constraints.

            Young Yuna had already voiced interest in becoming a Priestess of Etro while Lulu showed a desire to learn the mystic arts and become a Sorceress. Lightning fully supported the pair and even saw to it that Yuna was educated by none other than the Head Priest of Etro’s Temple in the ways of the church. Lulu spent many a day in the heart of the Academy, the home of the Sorcerer’s Guild.

            Jihl routinely gave Lightning reports on how her daughters were doing in their studies.

            Lightning tried to close her eyes and seek sleep, but her mind wouldn’t allow it. Her thoughts would inevitably wander back to her dreams. She didn’t want them. Not tonight, not ever.

            She sat up on her bed and rested her arms on her knees. She couldn’t push aside the cold icy grip around her heart. She started when a dark shadow passed in front of the doors that led to the balcony outside her quarters. She rose from her bed and moved over, lifting the heavy fur-lined robe and wrapping it about herself.

            She moved over and pushed the door open. The cool night breeze caressed her skin, bringing a bit of a chill with it. She looked up into the sky. She narrowed her eyes as she saw one of her father’s prized Wyverns soaring through the air. By royal order, no one, but no one was allowed to ride Wyverns but those of royal blood. It was a law that had been in place since the founding of the empire. And it was obvious that it was not Serah on the back of the beast.

            Anger boiled in her heart. Ever since their parents had died, neither she nor Serah had ridden. Her own personal Wyvern, Odin had sat in the stables. She hadn’t been on his back in six long years. She was regarded widely as the most skilled dragon rider in the kingdom, but her heart just hadn’t been in it.

            But as she watched the giant reptile weave through the night sky, she quickly went from angered, to amazed. She knew not the dragon’s name, but his purple scales were familiar to her all the same. She had seen him in the stables from time to time. He was a vicious and aggressive monster that had to be kept from the rest. And the woman that sat astride him seemed to control him with a feather lightness and a practiced hand.

            She leaned her body this way and that, and the creature responded. His movements were flawless. She’d never seen flying such as that. Whoever she was, she was gifted beyond measure. Watching the pair of them was beautiful. Their bodies extensions of the other. She saw as the great dragon swooped down to the ground outside the stables and land without a sound. The rider slid from his back, ran a hand over his large muzzle and led him into the barn.

            Lightning turned from her balcony and raced into her room. She shut the doors behind her and quickly dressed in a pair of doeskin breeches, a silk tunic, and her hard-soled boots. She slid on the tabard of the Farron family crest over her chest and strapped Blazefire, the enchanted longsword that had been carried by the head of the royal family since the founding of Bodhum to her waist.

            She trotted down the stairs of the palace, earning respectful bows and offers of “Your grace.” From the guards. She gave them a nod in return.

            “What’s the matter, my lady?” One of the guards dared to ask.

            She looked at him and shook her head. “Nothing,” She said, slowing to a walk. “Just need a good stretch of the legs.” She gave him a disarming smile.

            He grinned back at her. “Of course, your grace.”

            Lightning ran from the castle and made her way to the stables. Immediately the smells assailed her nose. The musk of Wyverns permeated the large space. It was an unpleasant odor, but strangely, it comforted her. She demanded that the stables be kept meticulously.

            She walked over and stood before Odin’s stall. The dragon looked up at her and immediately shuffled forward. His powerful muscles flexed and rippled as he moved. Though she found no occasion to ride him, she came down every day to feed him, and utter soft reassuring words to him. She also let him fly free at his whim as to not allow him to atrophy. His glistening white scales and piercing blue eyes captivated her as they had when he was first given to her at age five. She’d first ridden him on her tenth birthday. It was a freeing experience. Their bond was obvious. Her father knew that his choice had been the right one, allowing his daughter to become a rider. She took to it as a bird to flight.

             Lightning giggled as he nuzzled her neck and nipped at her hair. She patted his head and reached over, taking a bunch of greens that sat near each of the stalls. She offered them to him and he gobbled them up hungrily. She again patted his head and turned to the far side of the stalls.

             “That’s right. I’m just gonna…there we go.” She heard a distinctly accented voice from the stall nearest the far entrance.

             Lightning gave Odin another pat and moved off to the source of the conversation.

             “Quiet now, boy.” The woman said, softly. Lightning crept silently, peering around the corner.

             The woman was in typical stablery garb; loose fitting breeches, high leather boots, a thin loose shirt and heavy leather gloves. Her thick black hair hung in a careless wash down her back to hang between her shoulders.

             She currently worked with the purple-scaled dragon, removing his harness and saddle. The lantern light of the stable glistened off of his violet hide.

             “Shh.” The woman said, running the rough pad of her wire bristled grooming gloves along his skin. He let out a chittering squeak and shook his head side to side. She chuckled at him. “You liked that, don’t give me that.” He turned his head and, much as Odin had with Lightning, the dragon nuzzled against her neck and shoulder. She patted his head as she continued to clean his skin.

              Lightning stood with arms crossed, leaning against the wall. She was content to watch her. It was obvious that the woman, whoever she was, had an affinity with the creatures. Lightning, sadly, didn’t know her name. But of the stable-maid, she could definitely say this; she was absolutely stunning. “When my father first attained him, he was quickly deemed untrainable.” She finally said.

              The girl snapped her eyes to Lightning. They dilated quickly. “Your grace,” She said, bowing to her. “My apologies.  I didn’t see you standing there.”

              “Obviously.” Lightning said, moving closer, but keeping out of reach of the beast. “You find me in a difficult position, girl.” She lowered her head and began pacing back and forth.

              “Your grace?” She could hear her confusion.

              Lightning looked at her and cocked her head. “I saw you.” She looked to the dragon. “And him from my window.”

              The girl’s eyes widened even further. Terror filled her emerald green orbs. “Please, your grace. I-I am sorry. I’ll never…”

              “Quiet.” Lightning said. “What is your name?”

              “Fang, if it please,” She said, bowing her head.

              “Your whole name, please. You are Pulsian. I can tell by your dialect.”

              “Oerba Yun Fang, my lady.” Fang offered.

              “So you hail from Oerba and are of the Yun clan?” Fang nodded. She was oddly impressed that the Cocoon Empress knew of Pulsian naming conventions. She wasn't sure why she was impressed, she simply was. “Then it shouldn’t come as a surprise that you ride as you do.” Lightning chuckled. “Have you named him? My father never saw fit to.”

              “Bahamut, your grace,” Fang said. “Please, your grace. I-I know only the royal family is allowed to…”

              “So you do know the law.” Lightning said. She took a chance and stepped forward, offering her hand to the dragon. He sniffed it and turned to again bury his head in Fang’s shoulder. “The question then becomes what am I to do about it?”

              “Your grace can do as she sees fit,” Fang said, staring at the dragon in question. “But I ask mercy for Bahamut. I took him out without permission. The fault is mine, not his.”

              “How long have you been in these stables?” Lightning asked her. She moved up and rested a hand on the dragon’s neck. He let out a squeak and shuddered. She could sense something about him. “He’s afraid.”

              Fang looked at her. “How can you tell that, your grace?”

              Lightning shook her head. How did she know that? “I can…I can just feel it.”

             “I’ve been in the stables a year, now,” Fang said. “I’ve spent most of my time with Bahamut here. He was the runt of his clutch. I’ve gotten him up to weight and strength. When I heard Lady Serah speaking of how he might have to be put down, I had to do something.”

             “I must say, you’ve worked wonders with him.” Lightning said, running her hands along his side. “When I first encountered him…” She lifted her hand, showing Fang the scar along the back. “He nearly tore my hand off. My father wanted him destroyed then and there. My mother talked him out of it. With my father and mother gone, I’ve been deliberating long and hard on his fate.”

             Fang swallowed. “And by riding him without your permission, I’ve killed him,” She said, her voice cracking.

             “Have you?” Lightning asked her. “You take quite a liberty speaking for the queen.”

             Fang looked at her, confused.

             “Do you like it in the stables, Fang?” Lightning asked her.

             “I do, your grace,” Fang said. Her voice hopeful.

             “Good.” Lightning said, nodding. “I have read something of the Yun,” She said, smiling at the girl. “No better dragon trainers exist in the world. And if you can work such miracles with a fine beast like Bahamut, here.” She looked Fang in the eye. “You can do me another service.”

             “Anything, my lady.” Fang offered.

             “Bahamut is your Wyvern, now.” Lightning said, matter of fact. "I expect you to take the utmost care of him."

             “Your grace?” Fang was shocked beyond words. “Are you sure?”

             “On one condition.” Lightning said, looking the girl in the eyes. “You will train more riders, a few to start, as part of a new detachment.” She again ran her hands along Bahamut’s neck. She could feel him easing. “A Wyvern rider force.” She looked to Fang. “And you will teach them.”

             Fang dropped to one knee, clutching her fists to her chest. “I will do as you command, my lady.”

             “Thank you, Oerba Yun Fang.” Lightning said. “I’ll not deprive my kingdom of a gifted rider and such a beautiful animal.” She stepped over and pulled Fang to her feet. She then leaned in and pecked her lightly on the lips. “Being an Empress is more than just knowing what to do. It’s also about using what you have.”

             “Thank you, your grace,” Fang said. “I promise I won’t let you down.”

             Lightning smiled at her and nodded. “I’m sure you won’t.” She turned to leave the stables and stopped, turning to regard Odin. “Be sure to have Odin and Bahamut ready to fly tomorrow after midday.” Lightning said, turning to look at Fang. “I feel like flying.” She softened her expression. “With a friend.” 

            “Yes, your grace,” Fang said, giving her a bright smile.

Chapter Text

She stripped the case containing her gunblade off and placed it on the hook on the wall next to the front door of the modest two-story home she shared with her wife. She was saddened to see the long red lance missing from the rack. She moved into the kitchen, seeing a note written on the whiteboard that Serah had given her.

 

Hunting. Be back as soon as I can.

 

Lightning had complained about her and Fang missing each other due to their occasionally hectic schedules and each other forgetting to leave notes. She often had to work long hours for the new Guardian Corps and Fang was the premiere hunter in New Bodhum. Thus, they often didn’t see each other until the weekend. Now, according to Serah, they had no excuses.

Lightning sighed and pulled open the fridge and smiled brightly. A plate with a sandwich on it and plastic wrap over it sat on the top shelf. A sticky note with a smile drawn on it was stuck to the top of the plastic. She chuckled and reached in and took it. She sat at the small island and unwrapped it. As soon as she did, she knew that Fang had taken special care to make it just for her. Pastrami, bacon, lettuce, tomato with a slice of provolone and Havarti on rye with a kiss of stone ground spicy brown mustard. It was her favorite.

It was just one thing, among many that reminded her why she fell in love with the woman. She took a bite and closed her eyes, offering the quiet house a soft moan. The pair had been married for just a little over a month. With the way things had worked out, they hadn’t even been able to have a honeymoon yet.

Fang hadn’t, as of yet, uttered one single word of complaint. Major Amodar had been keeping her busy with training new recruits and organizing the patrols beyond New Bodhum. Fang worked double duty as a hunter that was called whenever there was a beast that drifted too close to the fence line and there were no soldiers to handle it. Fang, and to a larger degree Vanille, had also been consulting with the Guardian Corps Exploration Division as interpreters on some of the locations they were interested in.

Fang was teaching Lightning Pulsian, but it was slow going. She’d picked up a few things, but it was a process. And Fang was being endlessly patient with her. Many were the times when Lightning would curse herself for being stupid. Fang would constantly tell her that she had to learn Cocoon and that it was just as much an uphill battle for her. She always knew what to say to make Lightning feel better.

She finished her sandwich and moved to the sink, washing the plate and setting it in the drain rack. She looked at the clock as saw that it was still early. She went up to the bedroom she and Fang shared and chuckled. It was obvious that Fang had gotten the call to arms quickly, as her nightclothes were on the floor in front of the dresser.

She gathered the articles and took them into the bathroom and tossed them into the hamper. Humming to herself, she went about getting her own leisure wear; consisting of a pair of worn boxers – that Fang, for reasons that escaped her absolutely loved – and a long shirt that hung to mid-thigh. She put her clothes on the edge of the bathroom sink. She leaned into the shower and turned on the small waterproof radio that hung beneath the showerhead. She began bobbing her head with the music as she stripped out of her uniform, likewise throwing it all into the hamper. She fired the shower up and stepped in, still humming and singing along with the music, enjoying the feel of the hot water pounding onto her pale alabaster skin.

 

Fang grumbled as she made the walk up to the house. The sight of the home she shared with Lightning always put a smile on her face. She was exhausted. The sighting of a monster at the fence line turned out to be three monsters at the fence line. One behemoth and two Gorgonopsids. She’d taken a bit of shot, but she had enough healing potions to keep it from being serious.

She flexed her shoulder, feeling it pop as she reached for her keys. “Ah. That’s better.” She said, unlocking the door. She closed the door gently. She turned to see Lightning’s gunblade hanging on the peg on the wall. A wide grin split her tanned face as she placed her lance on the mount beside it. She stopped as she heard the shower going. She moved into the kitchen and saw the smiley-face sticky note on the whiteboard. She chuckled and grabbed the jug of orange juice and poured herself a glass. She downed it and nodded. She rinsed her glass and set it in the dish drainer before moving to the stairs.

She got halfway up and was forced to stop in her tracks. On rare occasions, Fang had heard Lightning sing to herself when she was doing dishes, or when she was working in the yard…but always low and always to herself. Fang had once told her that she had a beautiful voice, but Lightning would always blush and stop singing.

When she was a child, growing up in Oerba, the Yun would often sing during the festivals and for their children. The headmistress of the orphanage that both she and Vanille grew up in was of the Yun and she had a voice that Fang had never heard equaled…

Until now.

 

“The wheel in the sky keeps on turnin',

 I don't know where I'll be tomorrow!

Wheel in the sky keeps on turnin'!”

 

Fang heard her wife’s powerful voice emanating from the shower. Her heart sped up as she listened intently. Slowly, she ascended the stairs captivated by the dulcet sounds.

 

“I've been trying to make it home

Got to make it, before too long

Ooh, I can't take this very much longer, no

I'm stranded, in the sleet and rain

Don't think I'm ever gonna make it home again

The Mornin' sun is risin'

It's kissin' the day!”

 

She closed in on the bathroom door and rested her forehead against it, listening to her wife sing. All thoughts of exhaustion were forgotten. She was both hurt and heartened as she let the beautiful sounds wash over her. Tears were brought to her eyes. “Why didn’t you tell me?” She asked to herself. “If I’d have known, I could have told you.” Memories of her life as a little girl listening to the songs of her people flooded through her mind.

So engrossed was she in her thoughts that she didn’t hear the shower turn off and the door click open.

Lightning was startled when she saw Fang, weeping and staring at her. “Fang?” Lightning was suddenly concerned. “What’s wrong?”

“You never told me.” Fang said, working past the lump in her throat. “You never said you had a voice like that. Why?”

“You…you heard me?” Lightning asked, suddenly embarrassed. “I-I-I thought you were hunting.”

Fang took a few ragged breaths. “When I was a girl back in Oerba,” She closed her eyes to stem the flow of tears. “Singing like that was a gift. Few did it well.” She looked at her wife. “None, did it like that.”

“I don’t sing that…” Lightning stopped as Fang pressed a finger to her lips.

“Stop.” She said, shaking her head. “Just stop, please.” She pulled her wife in hugging her tightly. “Thank you.”

“Um…okay.” Lightning embraced her wife. “For what?”

“For giving me a small piece of a home I’d thought lost forever.” Fang said, sniffing. “Song was always a big part of Yun life.” She rested her forehead against Lightning’s. “I thought I’d never get to hear a voice like that again.”

Lightning didn’t know what to think. She’d always been told by her parents and by Serah that she had a powerful singing voice, but she never really thought that much of herself. Yes, once upon a time she wanted to be a singer, but it was something she quickly grew out of. She still kept her voice trained and before being tapped as a L’Cie, there were times when the soldiers would get her to go to some of the Karaoke bars in Cocoon with them – and while yes, she did well – she never believed she was that gifted.

But the tear stained cheeks and reddened emotional eyes of her wife told her otherwise. She took hold of Fang’s cheeks and pressed her lips to those of the brunette. “Only for you, Fang.” Lightning said, softly. “Only for you.”

Chapter Text

             Primarch Galenth Dysley sat upon his throne glaring at the massive double doors before him. Though his face was a mask of stoic determination, fear and panic were visible in his eyes. In all of his sixty-seven years of life, he’d never been truly afraid.  

            Gunshots rang out from the opposite side of the doors. Shouting, screaming…then complete silence. He sat poised; waiting, anticipating attack. His elite guard were the best in the Sanctum. Their skills; unequaled. Their loyalty; unwavering.

            Time dragged like the sun on a midsummer’s day. Seconds turned to minutes. Still there was nothing. “What in blazes is happening out there?” He growled into the silence of the room.

            “What occurs beyond that door shouldn’t be your primary concern, you grace.” A rich female voice wafted from the darkness surrounding his audacious seat of power. “Your problems lie much closer to home.”

            He remained seated. He was no warrior. If an attacker had managed to make it past his trusted personal bodyguard, then his life was as near as makes no difference, forfeit. “You are very skilled to have made it this far.”

            Motion to the side caught his attention. From the shadows, an object flew slapping down on the stone surrounding his throne. The projectile rolled awkwardly to a stop. As he looked at it, bile rose in his throat.

            Long chestnut colored hair trailed behind the head of Jihl Nabaat. She was the most decorated soldier in his army. Her abilities were legendary among her fellow warriors. In the war that waged between Cocoon and Gran Pulse, her kills could not easily be tallied. She’d lead campaigns that struck at the very heart of the most fortified bastions of Pulsian military might and she’d completed every single sortie.

            And now, he looked down into her cold, dead eyes. “You should be proud, Primarch. She put up quite a fight.” The woman’s voice took on an amused quality. “She almost killed me.”

            “Who,” He swallowed, still looking about the room. “Who are you?”

            “I’m just an unnamed soldier, your grace. A woman that blindly followed orders, going where I was told and doing as I was instructed to do.” The voice came to the right of him. He turned, fearful.

            Nothing.

            “Then came an order that I could not follow.” He spun to his left to again be met with darkness.

            “Children, Primarch.” A lean figure stood just beyond the light of his throne. He couldn’t make out her face. But there was no mistaking the large gunblade in her hand. “Lieutenant Colonel Rosch ordered me to take my battalion and raze a Pulsian city of non-combatants.” She shook her head. “As I was cutting his innards from his body, he revealed that the orders had come…” She lifted the blade and pointed it toward him. “From you.”

            He sat up straight and cleared his throat. “An enemy must be destroyed on all fronts. At home and abroad. You slaughter everyone and it shakes your enemy’s resolve. It takes their will to fight.”

            “Savages,” She said, her voice filling with menace. “Neanderthals and barbarians. Monsters incapable of compassion or pity. Do you remember those words, your grace? That was how you painted the Pulsian forces five years ago when this war began.” She shook her head. “Not so. Uncompassionate savages would not march escort to Cocoonian mercy trains through hostile, beast filled terrain. Pitiless barbarians would not rush to the aid of soldiers wounded in battle.” She stepped into the light so he could see her.

            He recognized her immediately. Her long pink locks glistened in the soft light. And it was obvious that her conflict had been a bitter one. Blood pooled upon her pale jacket. She limped badly and her left arm hung useless against her side. But her wounds did little to detract from level of danger the woman exuded. Her record showed her name as Claire Farron. But to everyone she met on the battlefield, friend and foe alike, she was Lightning.

            "They are not the monsters, your grace. You are.” She slowly walked toward him. “They fought with honor, with respect.” She whipped her blade about in her hand. In a heartbeat, it had become a high caliber rifle. “You wanted us to fight like cowards.” She leveled her gun at him. “You wanted us to abandon our honor.”

            He stared at her defiantly. “If you do this, it is treason.”

            “I like to think of it as rebellion.”

            “You are a traitor,” He growled.

            “Then it seems I am in fit company,” She said to him. “The moment you wanted us to be less than those we battled, you became a traitor.” She squeezed the trigger. The bullet entered his forehead, just between his eyes. The back of his skull exploded in a hail of crimson gore. He flew back in his seat and slumped, his face still twisted in a mask of angered insolence.

 

            “Lights.” Primarch Cid Raines ordered, turning from the huge screen inset into the wall. “That was precisely ninety-three days ago, gentlemen,” He said, looking at the group of gathered faces. These men were his most trusted advisors and military leaders. “Master Sergeant Farron singlehandedly earned us a ceasefire.”

            Lieutenant Colonel Rygdea nodded. “If not for her shootin’ him we’d still be neck deep in combat.”

            “Agreed,” Cid said, leaning back in his chair. “And in order to keep this peace, we need something to solidify it. Dysley’s war was expensive and pointless. And it mustn’t, under any circumstances, be repeated.”

            “What do you suggest?” Colonel Amodar asked him.

            Cid turned to Nora Estheim, his political historian. “I believe Mrs. Estheim has found the answer to that,” He said, motioning to the blonde woman. “Please, Doctor.”

            She nodded and tapped the controls on the table. The screen displayed an ancient photograph, predating their holographic technology of a beautiful woman standing arm in arm with a massive beast of a man draped in furs and leathers. His face and chest were covered in tattoos and paint. “This is Amelana Therisora and Oerba Yun Crow. He was the Warchief of the Yun clan, the most prominent and most vicious clan of Gran Pulse. Amelana was the daughter of the Primarch. They were wed four hundred and ninety-seven years ago to end the War of Transgression.” She looked to the group. “That union bought us almost five hundred years of peace. I think it could be just what we need to make sure the peace that Master Sergeant Farron sacrificed everything to obtain remains secure.”

            “But…” A wormy man named Nigel began. “Primarch Dysley had no children.” He then looked to Cid. “Neither do you.”

            “That is true. But I feel that any true daughter of Cocoon will do.” Cid said. “But it must be someone of import. Of status. A symbol as it were.”

            “Who do you suggest?” Amodar asked.

            Cid tapped a button, bringing up an image of Lightning standing in full ceremonial dress. “A true daughter of Cocoon,” He repeated. “And a brighter symbol I can’t imagine.”

            Amodar slammed his hands down on the table. “You can’t!” He growled. “She’s already given way too much to this sovereignty. You can’t possibly expect her to give up the rest of her life for us. That’s…that’s just cruel.”

            “It is necessary…”

            “Primarch,” Amodar said. “Cid.” He pleaded. “To force her to wed some, savage is just…” He shook his head, angrily. “That woman has literally saved this nation.”

            “Yes, Colonel. She has.” Cid said, leaning forward to stare into his eyes. “And now she’ll save it again. By getting married.”

 

            Lightning stood in front of the mirror in her bedroom, looking at her reflection. The pauldron showing the marks of Master Sergeant rested on her shoulder. It still weighed heavily on her. It had been almost two months since her promotion and she still felt it surreal. The last thing she expected after assassinating the most powerful man in Cocoon was a promotion. She honestly expected a court-martial at best and an execution at worst.

            Her jacket, thanks to her younger sister Serah, had been washed and pressed. Her red cape, a recent replacement to the tattered and torn mess she’d worn through most of her service, hung from the pauldron and down her back. The brown leather skirt was shined, as was all of the buckles of her uniform. Her commendations and medals, of which there were many, adorned her chest.

              Serah stared at her from the side of the room, her hands clasped in front of her mouth. “You look great.”

            Lightning turned to regard her. “Really?”

            Serah nodded. She took the gunblade from the hook on the wall and offered it to her sister. “Here. Your uniform isn’t complete unless you’re carrying Blazefire.”

            Lightning took it and strapped it to her back. She then pulled her sister in for a hug. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

            “I know,” She said, happily. “It’s not every day you get invited to visit the Primarch.”

            “Last time I was in the throne room, I shot him.” Lightning said.

            “Cid seems a bit more…stable than Dysley.” Serah said. “Good luck. Knock him dead.”

            “I’ll try to refrain from that.” Lightning said, smiling. She tapped Serah on the chin. “I’m not that eager for another promotion.”

            She left the house and climbed into the limousine that sat waiting in front of their small residence. She looked to see Serah standing in the doorway waving to her. Lightning sat back and relaxed for the long drive from Bodhum to Eden, the capital city of Cocoon and the seat of the Primarch. “Do you have any idea why the Primarch wants to see me?” She asked the driver.

            “No, Ma’am,” He said, shaking his head. “I’m just a driver.”

            She gave him a nod and sat back. She had expected as much. She closed her eyes and crossed her arms. All she could do was wait.

            It was almost two hours at highway speeds to get to the royal palace. The limousine pulled to a stop. The driver stepped out and opened the door for her. She climbed out and gave him another friendly nod. Lieutenant Colonel Rygdea stood to wait for her at the door of the palace. She immediately snapped a salute. “Lt. Colonel,” She said, crisply.

            “At ease Master Sergeant,” He said, his voice full of southern charm. “Good to see you again, Light,” He said offering his hand.

            She took it, smiling. “It’s only been two months, sir.”

            He chuckled and opened the door for her. “Time flies, huh?” He said to her.

            “Any idea what the Primarch wants to see me about?” She asked him. “I was hoping to go back to my posting with the Security Detachment in Bodhum.” She saw a look pass across Rygdea’s face. She wasn’t sure what it meant. “Sir? What’s going on?”

            “I’ll let the Primarch tell ya,” He said to her.

            “I’m not being court-martialed am I?” She asked him, her face showing her apprehension.

            “No,” He said, shaking his head. “Well,” He added. “Not really.”

            She stopped, staring at him. “What do you mean, not really?”

            “With me, Master Sergeant,” He said, motioning her forward. “It’s important, let’s just say that.”

            She fell in step beside him in silence. Her mind was reeling. She had no idea what was going on and she didn’t like it one bit. She was used to being in control. And now, she most certainly was not. It grated on her.

            She was lead up into the core of the palace, but not to the throne room. Which suited her just fine. She shared no love for the place. Instead, she was lead to what looked like a large dining room. Seated at the head of the long table – which was covered with Cocoon and Gran Pulse delicacies – was Cid Raines, current Primarch of the empire.

            As she had with Rygdea, she offered Cid a salute. “Sir. Master Sergeant Farron reporting as ordered, sir.” She said, her voice filled with respect. Unlike Galenth Dysley, a man that was groomed for his role and who hadn’t served a single day in the service, Cid Raines was a soldier, just like her. He’d risen through the ranks and earned his stripes. At the beginning of the war, five years ago, he’d taken command of the forces on the ground in Gran Pulse and made one hell of a name for himself. Of Cocoon’s history, he was the only Five Star General. Despite the station of Primarch, the man still wore his Sanctum Uniform. He was and always would be a warrior first.

            “At ease, Master Sergeant,” He said, giving her a smile. “Join me?” He asked, motioning to the seat beside him.

            Lightning knew the question was one hundred percent rhetorical and moved to take a seat. She was a touch flattered when Cid pulled her seat out for her and slid it in like a proper gentleman. He looked to Rygdea. “Thank you, Lieutenant Colonel.” The soldier knew his cue and took his leave, closing the door behind him.

            Cid moved around and took a seat. “Here,” He said, pouring her a glass from a crystal decanter. “Honeyed wine from Oerba. A finer drink, I’ve yet to experience.”

            Lightning wasn’t much of a drinker. She could hold her alcohol like no other, but she just didn’t like being drunk. But when offered a drink by the Primarch, you accepted, simply put. She nodded to him and took the goblet. The liquid was an iridescent golden color. She brought it to her nose and sniffed it. She could immediately tell that it was sweet. The saccharine scent brought with it a hint of alcoholic content. She was sure that the content of this one glass would be enough to give most a buzz. She sipped it and was pleasantly surprised.

            “Exquisite, isn’t it?” He asked her. He’d taken a small sip of his own. “Amazing that a people supposedly lacking in sophistication can create something so sublime.”

            Lightning nodded. It wasn’t quite as startling as she thought it would be. But she also realized that she would need to be vigilant as to how much she consumed. Otherwise, she would become very drunk very quickly. “I appreciate you wishing to see me, sir.”

            Cid sighed. He should have known better than to try and make this something other than what it was. “I’m going to come right out with it, Master Sergeant. Your service to this nation has been exemplary. Up to and including your dispatching of my predecessor. What you did took courage and a dedication to the people of Cocoon. I’ve read your file. Though, I never had the opportunity to serve with you directly, I know you as a woman of uncompromising character and integrity. The military has been your life.” He gave her a nod. “I know the true reason you joined. To provide a life for your sister, Serah.” Lightning nodded in return. “It was with that in mind that, despite the outcry of those in positions of government beneath me, I chose to promote you instead of court-martialing you.”

            “I appreciate that, sir.” Lightning said. “I promise I won’t let your faith in me be misplaced.”

            He sighed heavily. “You brought us a tenuous peace with Gran Pulse,” He said, flatly. “You know this.”

            “I only did what anyone would have done, sir.” Lightning said. “It was…”

            “Modesty, beyond a certain point, becomes offensive, Master Sergeant,” Cid said to her. He made sure to give her a disarming smirk to take the venom from his words. “It was your actions that directly led to the ceasefire that we currently sit under. Everyone on Cocoon as well as Gran Pulse owes you much.” He lowered his head, suddenly feeling very selfish for asking her what he planned to. “You’ve given so much for this empire, I have no right to ask more of you.” He looked her in the eye. “But I am asking.”

            “What do you need me to do, sir?” Lightning asked him. She kept her face stoic.

            He leaned back and stared at her for a moment. He almost considered calling the whole thing off. Amodar was right. What he was about to order her to do was to, in essence, give her life to insure the continued survival of Cocoon.

            Despite what the news vids and the reports said, the war was devastating to Cocoon. The forces of Gran Pulse outnumbered them nearly ten to one. And their warriors were fearsome, dedicated and very, very skilled. If the peace couldn’t be solidified, then Cocoon was doomed. They no longer had the resources to maintain a war.

            It was with that in mind that he finally spoke. “What I order you to do now, Master Sergeant Farron, I do with a heavy heart and a very heavy conscience.” He took in and let out a deep breath. “You are to be wed to the War Chief of the Yun Clan of Oerba,” He said, his tone hard as stone.

            Lightning stared long and hard at him. For several seconds, she said nothing. “I’m not sure I heard you correctly, sir.” She offered calmly.

            “I assure you, Master Sergeant, you heard me just fine,” Cid said. “Do you remember your military history, Lightning?” He asked her. She gave him a nod. “Tell me how the War of Transgression ended.”

            “Lady Amelana Therisora, daughter of Primarch Bowen Therisora was offered as a wife of Oerba Yun Crow, then War Chief of the Yun Clan to seal a peace between our worlds.” Lightning offered. “And that’s what you wish of me?” She asked him.

            “It is,” He said. “As was stated earlier to me, Dysley had no children. Nor do I. But there can be no doubting that you are a true daughter of Cocoon. The actions you’ve taken to protect the safety and prosperity of this empire cannot be called into question. The Pulsians know you to be a warrior of integrity and honor. And they have agreed to a wedding to seal the breach between our peoples.”

            “But Serah…”

            “Will want for nothing,” Cid said. “I know your only true desire is to see your sister safe and happy. I will make it my personal responsibility to see that she is cared for. Hers will be a life free of any earthly concern. The best in higher education, a position of comfort and prestige. Colonel Amodar has already agreed that his best man will be her shadow, should you agree.” He gave Lightning a smile. “I believe you know him. He was in your unit during the last year and a half of the war.”

            “Sergeant Kreiss?” Lightning asked.

            “He jumped at the chance.” Cid smiled. “Kid respects the hell out of you.” He leaned forward. “I don’t want this to be an order, Lightning.”

            She stared into his eyes. “It doesn’t have to be, sir.” She gave him a nod. “I’ll do it.”

            “I’m overjoyed to hear you say that, Master Sergeant. Again, you put the needs of the empire above yourself. What you do will not be forgotten. And your sister will be taken care of for the rest of her life. You have my word.”

            “Thank you, sir.” Lightning said. She was pleased that she could serve the empire. But she was content to know that she’d earned a wonderful life for Serah. She only hoped her sister would see it that way.

 

            “You’re what?!” Serah shouted. “How could you do this?”

            Lightning had honestly expected this reaction, she really did. “I did what I had to do, Serah. For your safety, for the safety of everyone on Cocoon.”

            “No!” Serah said, shaking her head angrily. “You joined the military and I supported you. You went off to war and I supported you. You wanted to betray your superiors and kill the Primarch and I supported you.” She lifted her tear rimmed eyes to her sister. “But I can’t…” She began crying into her hands. “I don’t want you to go.” She sank to the edge of the sofa.

            Lightning sat beside her and wrapped her arms about her sister. “I have to, Serah. It means a better life for you. You’ll be taken care of. I won’t have to worry about you. You’ll want for nothing.”

            “I want you!” Serah wailed. “The one thing I want I won’t be able to have.”

            “I’m not disappearing.” Lightning said, lifting Serah’s chin to look at her. “I’m getting married, not fading from existence. You can come and visit me, you know.”

            Serah shook her head. “Travel between Cocoon and Gran Pulse is strictly prohibited.”

            “Cid has already addressed that. You’ll be allowed to visit. I have his word. And I trust Cid. He’s a good man. An honorable man.”

            “Do you,” She swallowed and tried again. “Do you know who you’re marrying?”

            “I only know that it’s the War Chief of the Yun Clan. During the war, they claimed more lives than any other clan.”

            “I’m just afraid that they’ll, I don’t know, torture you or something,” Serah said. She began crying. “Or worse. I heard that they share everything.” She stared into Lightning’s eyes. “What if he wants to share you with his Clan? You getting gang-,”

            Lightning put her finger on Serah’s lips. “Don’t even consider finishing that sentence.” She shook her head. “It won’t be like that. This is a marriage to stop a war, not start one. If Colonel Amodar got word that something like that was happening to me, he’d rush down and storm Oerba with a battalion of soldiers, believe me. I’m fairly sure I’ll be treated with respect at the very least.”

            Serah hoped, for her sister’s sake, she was right. She collapsed against Lightning and continued to weep. She just held her sister. It was one of the last few times she’d be able to.

Chapter Text

 

            The month preceding the wedding was the fastest of Lightning’s life. Cid pulled out all the stops to be certain that it was an affair to remember. The finest seamstresses and tailors fussed over every aspect of her wedding garb. At first, everyone wished her to be clad in a glorious gown of white silk and lace. Flowing trains, adornments of pearl and the whole nine yards.

            She steadfastly refused. She was getting married as a matter of duty. To her, it was a military operation like any other. Thus, she wanted to be married in her dress uniform. Those responsible for the wedding balked, but Cid’s word hushed them in an instant. Claire ‘Lightning’ Farron was a soldier. She was a warrior and would be married thus.

            During the entire ordeal, Lightning was never made aware of  who precisely she would be getting married to. She knew only that it was the head of the Yun Clan. She felt it kind of strange that she would be marrying into a group that, mere months ago, she was doing her best to wipe off the face of Gran Pulse.

            She remembered well the bloody engagements against the fierce warriors of the Yun. They fought with a ferocity that she’d never seen before. When she spoke with Serah about her possible reception of the people, she waxed reassuring to her sister. She did her best to alleviate Serah’s fears. She’d be respected because the Yun respect combat prowess and she had it in spades.

            But if she were to be honest with herself, she wasn’t sure she truly believed what she said to Serah. The Yun were everything that Serah said. She’d heard the stories. They did, indeed, share everything. She’d done extensive research, but she’d never found any evidence of men sharing their wives, but that thought gave her little comfort. She wasn’t of Gran Pulse. She was of Cocoon. He could very well see her as, not a woman, but a war prize. What if he did wish to share her with his clan? What would she do? She, sadly, had no answer. But she didn’t share this fear. She kept a hold of the fact that by doing as she was, she was granting Serah the life she always wished for her. That was enough for her. It had to be.

            She sat at a table within the palace the day before the wedding with Cid, Colonel Amodar, Lebreau, the Primarch’s event planner and Serah. The group went over the events in great detail of the following day.

            As Lightning listened, she learned that it was going to a gloriously auspicious to do. A day of festival and revelry had been planned and would culminate in the wedding ceremony to take place in the center of the Blitzball stadium in the heart of Eden. It would be broadcast all over Cocoon and apparently Gran Pulse as well.

            Lightning, in truth, was mostly numb to the situation. To her, it was a means to an end. What she’d seen of Gran Pulse, it was a desolate world. Most of her experience was open plains and small settlements. She’d only tackled one truly daunting bastion. A terrifyingly grim place known as Taejin’s Tower. The black monolith of stone still haunted her dreams. Within the ancient temple, she and her men had come across something that none of them were prepared for, and they paid a heavy price for their hubris.

            If at the beginning of the war someone had spoken to her of magic and sorcery, she’d have laughed at them. After that day, she knew better. Men and women of the Dia Clan hurled lightning, thunder and fire at them from the very air. Blasts of frozen power turned men into ice in an instant.

            She was forced to retreat from her position. Of the dozen or so Pulsians that held the tower, they killed two. Of the fifty men she led, forty-one met their deaths. She and eight others managed to escape with their lives. And all of them would remember the faces of those that fell. The screams of the dying as they were burned alive from the inside out. It was a horror that she would carry for the rest of her days.

            She shook her head and turned her attention back to the conversation. Amodar was going over security concerns. She listened and offered input when she was asked.

            Long into the night, they spoke about it. Finally, she and Serah were taken to their rooms to get some sleep. Tomorrow would be a busy day.

            Lightning lay on the bed, staring up at the ceiling. She had to be awake at six AM. She turned to look at the clock. It was just after one. She sighed and turned to her side. She closed her eyes and tried to find sleep. Her stomach and her mind spun and turned, keeping slumber at bay.

            She did her best to imagine what her life on Gran Pulse would be like. She pictured a huge brute with thick knotted arms, a broad tanned chest, and intense green eyes. His face would be ruddy and scarred, most likely covered in tribal tattoos. The ink would tell the story of his life, from his earliest days as a hunter and gatherer to his current position as the leader of the clan. His hands would be rough and calloused, due to years of gripping the haft of his long brutal spear.

            The more she thought about what her new husband would be like, the more she realized that it might not be so terrible. If she was to be his only, then… “Could be worse, I suppose.” She said, smiling to the darkness of the room. She kept a hold of the image of a giant Yun warrior laying her gently down on a bed of furs and…

            She fell asleep with a smile upon her face.

 

            Lightning once again found herself dressed to the nines in her uniform. As before, all of her commendations and medals were pinned to her chest. Her gunblade was strapped across her back. Her jacket, was a long sleeve affair instead of the short sleeve she was used to and her leather skirt was replaced with trousers of the same color. She also had a red beret with the symbol of the Guardian Corps upon it. She settled it on her head and left the room she’d been given. She walked out of the hotel and stared up at the sky as the huge military transport blasted away toward the world below.

            She watched as it shrunk into the distance. She knew that her entire life sat within that transport. Everything she owned disappearing from her home on Cocoon to a new world that she knew little about. Her heart dropped as she realized the truth of it. The enormity of what she was doing… “For the good of Cocoon.” She said to herself.

            “What was that?” Serah asked, moving up to stand beside her.

            Lightning looked at her sister. She’d never seen her look more beautiful. Lebreau wasn’t able to work her magic with Lightning, so she took that out on the woman’s sister. And the results were absolutely stunning. “You look wonderful.” Lightning said to the girl. The white of the slimming dress hugged her curves. The pearl accents sparkled in the sunlight.

            “Lebreau said I get to keep this after the ceremony.” Serah said. “I was thinking I could wear it for when Snow and I…you know.” She took Lightning’s arm. “If a certain sister is okay with it.” She added smiling.

            Lightning chuckled. “I’ve already sent him a vid telling him that I’m okay with it.” She lifted a finger. “With the proviso that if he hurts you, me and my husband are gonna come back to Cocoon and gut him like a fish.”

            “You didn’t.” Serah said. As Lightning raised an eyebrow, Serah sighed. “You did. And the sad part of it is, he probably believes you.”

            “He should.” Lightning said. “Come on. Let’s get this show on the road.” The pair walked down to the large black limousine and climbed in.

            The arrived at the palace quickly and were escorted to the throne room. Lightning’s stomach tightened. Her last foray in this place was filled with blood, bullets and the screams of the dying. She looked over at Lt. Col Rygdea and saw a similar discomfort in his features. When she had made her push on the palace, the rugged soldier had been right here with her. He had led his men in a head-on assault against the Primarch’s elite. It was a bloody clash that resulted in a horrible death toll.

            It freed her up to steal into the throne room. Before she could take her revenge upon the man in charge of the world, she had to make it past his bodyguard. Jihl Nabaat was not a woman to be taken lightly. The elder warrior had literal decades of combat experience. And all of it was brought to bear on her.

            But in the end, she’d slain the proud soldier. In her dying moments, Jihl praised the name of Galenth Dysley. Even in the throes of death, she remained ever loyal. And Lightning repaid that loyalty by severing the woman’s head and using it as a message. A tactic to rattle the man. It wasn’t one of her proudest moments.

            She shook the thoughts away and looked to the Primarch. “There she is.” He said, rising from his throne and sweeping toward her. He rested his hands upon her shoulders. “Know what you do, you do for a better world.”

            Lightning nodded. “Thank you, your grace.”

            Cid turned to Serah and took her hands gently in his. “And also for a better life for your beloved sister.” Serah gave him a practiced curtsey. “And know too that when young Serah and Snow wed, all will be taken care of. The office of the Primarch will see their union a festival of grandeur.”

            Lightning was shocked by that. “That isn’t necessary, your grace.”

            “Please, Master Sergeant. A better life is a gift from the people of Cocoon.” He rested a hand on both their shoulders. “A memorable wedding is a gift from me.”

            Serah again curtsied. “Thank you, your grace.”

            “Come.” He said, sweeping his arms wide. “We have a ceremony to attend. And the chosen daughter of Cocoon has an adoring public to greet.”

            Lightning nodded and blew out a breath. She walked along beside him. Her sister was a pace behind, side by side with Lt. Col Rygdea. “Snows a lucky man.” He said to the younger Farron sister. She looked up at him and gave him a smile.

            They exited the palace and stepped up onto the large flower laden float. The street all the way to the stadium was lined with citizens. They were cheering and waving at her and the Primarch. Lightning was nearly overwhelmed by it all. She plastered on her best smile and waved at the people like she’d been shown. Overhead airships prowled the skies. Huge zeppelins circled the city, just as they did in every city with monumental screens on both sides, playing the images of her and Cid.

            “For the past month, the advertising campaign has been extensive.” Cid said as he waved to the people. “Everyone on Cocoon knows what you do for them.”

            Lightning swallowed and nodded. “I hope I don’t do anything to let them down.” She said, nervously. “I do have a question, though.” She looked at him. “Do you know who I’m to be marrying? I mean, have you seen them at all?”

            Cid shook his head. “No.” He returned. “I know when I was serving that the War Chief of the Yun was Oerba Yun Talon. But that was two years ago. Rumors are that he died during an engagement. I haven’t been able to corroborate this, however.”

            “Is he…was he a good man?” Lightning asked.

            “From what I knew of him.” Cid said. “All of the Yun are if the stories told of them are to be believed.”

            Lightning sighed and nodded. She went back to waving. She couldn’t help the lead that poured into the pit of her stomach. The closer her wedding came, the more nervous she seemed to get.

            It took almost forty minutes to make the trip along the parade route from the royal palace to the stadium. The float entered the coliseum and rolled onto the field. Lightning tensed as she saw two long lines of Yun warriors standing tall to either side. All of them had a dangerous way about them. Even just standing there, she was intimidated. Men and woman alike gazed up at her as she passed between them. What surprised her the most is that none of them – not one – met her eyes with anything short of respect.

            She was a warrior. And to them it seemed that was enough. The people of Cocoon were seated within the stadium and were cheering at a fever pitch. She could almost feel the air vibrate with their collected excitement. It would seem peace was in fashion. The float came to a rest in front of the garishly decorated stage in the center of the arena. Cid stepped down, giving the Yun warriors nearest him a respectful bow before ascending the stairs of the stage. Lightning followed behind, likewise bowing. Her sister and Rygdea did the same. The crowd, if it was possible, grew even louder.

            Cid moved up and stood behind a fanciful podium. Lightning stood as she was instructed to his right. Serah took her place next to Lightning and Rygdea assumed a position of watchful distance. “People of Cocoon.” He said, holding his arms out wide. His voice boomed throughout the stadium and indeed throughout the world. He then motioned to the Pulsian warriors on the field, who had turned to view him. “Brave warriors of the Yun Clan. Welcome to Cocoon.” The gathered Pulsians nodded in unison.

            “Today is a milestone for two worlds. This day, Cocoon and Gran Pulse become joined in a lasting peace. Like our ancestors, we seek to put the horrors of war behind us and surge forward into a new age of peace and happiness. Two souls of two very different worlds will become one as they pledge their lives to one another. More than a simple wedding, this union will stand as a landmark in the history of both our peoples.” He motioned to Lightning. She stepped forward to an eruption of applause. “I give you our beloved daughter of Cocoon, Master Sergeant Claire ‘Lightning’ Farron.” She took a bow, doing her best not the let the butterflies in her stomach core her like an apple. “And who from the Yun will take the hand of our beloved daughter?”

            On cue, the Pulsians turned and took a knee, bowing their heads in respect. Cid lowered his head but was not required to take a knee, being recognized as an equal position as the War Chief. Lightning, Serah, and Rygdea, however, did as the Yun had, showing the respect the figure was due.

            Lightning was curious when she heard the entirety of the stadium let out a collective gasp. She wanted desperately to look up and see what had caused their reaction, but protocol wouldn’t allow it. Not only that but given that she was going to be spending the rest of her life with the man, the last thing she wished to do was offend him.

            For several minutes, she remained thus. It wasn’t until the War Chief and his entourage ascended the stairs of the stage, was she able to rise to her feet. She turned to look, for the first time into the face of her…

            …wife?

            Lightning stood gazing into emerald green eyes of a very, very beautiful woman with deeply tanned skin, and a lean yet muscular build. Her hair hung in a wild unkempt wash of raven black about her shoulders and down her back. A silken blue sari edged with ancient Pulsian runes adorned her frame. Upon her shoulder was a tattoo of some unidentifiable beast. The woman was regarding her with a cocky smirk. It was obvious that she was taking some amusement in not being what Lightning expected.

            Please be the War Chief’s daughter with a sick note. Lightning thought to herself.

            “I was not expecting that.” Serah said, humor in her voice.

            “Ditto.” Rygdea offered.

            Cid, ever the professional, addressed the tall beauty. “You are the War Chief of the Yun Clan, are you not?” He asked her.

            Please say no. Lightning chanted internally.

            “I am.” The woman said, nodding.

            Damn!

            “Oerba Yun Fang.” She said, staring directly into Lightning’s eyes. She held her hand out to the side. One of her retainers set a long wooden box in her hand. “You are known to me, Bodhum Farron Lightning.” She opened the box and removed a necklace of silver and topaz matching that which the woman wore. Lightning had to admit, it was strikingly beautiful. “It was only after I learned that you were the chosen daughter of Cocoon, did I agree to this union.” She took a step forward and held the necklace out, looking to place it about Lightning’s neck. The soldier immediately lowered her head. Fang placed it gently on her, settling it over her chest. “I, Oerba Yun Fang, take you and all that you are and offer myself and all that I am in return.”

            Lightning moved to speak and found her throat dry. She swallowed and tried again. “I, Claire Farron…”

            Fang quickly pressed a finger to her lips. “That is not your name.” She gave her a smile. “Try again.”

            Lightning couldn’t help but smirk. “I Lightning Farron, take you and all that you are and offer all that I am in return.”

            Cid lifted his hands, encompassing the pair of them. “Let it be known this day and every day forward that these two are wed. May the Maker bless their union.”

            Fang leaned in and pecked Lightning on the lips. A chaste brushing and nothing more. Without another word, she turned and left the stage, climbing back up to the chariot and calling the pair of horse-like beasts into motion.

            Serah was confused. “Is that…is that normal?” She asked, watching the woman ride away. “Isn’t she going to kiss you?”

            “Pulsian weddings are different.” Lightning said. “We won’t share any sensual contact until we arrive home.”

            Serah bit her lip. “I guess…you have a flight to catch.”

            Lightning kept staring at her wife as she rolled out of the stadium. Last night she dreamt of a beast of a man. It would seem fate had delivered something quite different. And if she were to be honest with herself, she didn’t necessarily see that as a bad thing.

Chapter Text

           The day that Lightning had both been eagerly awaiting and fearfully dreading in equal measure had finally arrived. She’d been wed to – if she were to be honest with herself – a stunningly beautiful woman just three days ago. One of Fang’s retainers had informed her that it would take as long for the proper preparations to be made. Lightning wanted an elaboration, but the man refused and took his leave.

            Now she stood on the tarmac, her arms wrapped tightly about her sister’s waist. Her tears soaking into the shoulder of Lightning’s jacket. “I’m gonna miss you,” Serah said, her voice cracking. She drew back and stared into the elder girl's bright blue eyes. “Promise me you’ll be careful.”

            Lightning brushed her hair over her ear. “I promise,” She said in return. She then looked up to Snow. “Come here, you.” He stepped up to her.

            “I swear to you.” The massive blonde said, looking Lightning in the eye. “I will make her happy.”

            She gave him and Serah a warm smile. “I believe you.” She pulled them both in. “Congrats.”

            “Light?” Lt. Col Rygdea said from the door of the transport. “It’s time.”

            Lightning nodded to him and turned back to her sister and future brother-in-law. “I’ll write to you as soon as I can. I love you and promise you’ll take care of yourselves.” Serah gave her a nod.

            “We promise,” Snow said giving her shoulder a squeeze.

            She hugged them again and turned to climb the stairs. She gave one last look back and went to take her seat.

            Snow wrapped his huge arms about Serah and held her as she cried. Together they watched the pink haired soldier board the transport. “I’m never going to see her again,” Serah said, sadly.

            “Hey, don’t say that,” Snow said, hugging her tightly. “Do you honestly think anything on Cocoon or Gran Pulse can keep your sister from you?” He shook his head. “I sure as hell don’t.”

            “I hope you’re right,” Serah said, her voice barely more than a whisper.

            Lightning settled in and put on her seat belt. Her stomach was filled with lead. She’d been nervous ever since learning that she was married to a woman. No one, least of all her, expected that. Knowing what she did of the world below, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise. More so than on Cocoon, the people of Gran Pulse had no gender barriers at all. Men and women were equals in all things. So a female War Chief wasn’t beyond the norm.

            She watched out the window as Serah and Snow backed away from the transport. The howl of the engines increased and soon they were rising into the air. She gave the couple one last wave. When she could no longer see them, she settled back in her seat. It was a long flight to Oerba.

            “How’s it feel, Master Sergeant?” Rygdea asked her. “Being married to a woman?”

            Lightning looked at him. “It was…unexpected.”

            “Yeah, no shit,” He said, chuckling. “I think that one caught everyone off guard. Did you hear the crowd?”

            “I wanted to lift my head and look,” Lightning admitted. “But then I thought it might be taken as a sign of disrespect. And the last thing I wanted to do was offend the person I was gonna spend the rest of my life with.”

            “You regretting it?” He asked her.

            “Yes and no,” She said to him.

            “What do you mean?”

            “Well…” She looked down at the necklace she wore. The symbol of the harmony between Cocoon and Gran Pulse. An everlasting peace…all because of her. “I don’t really know. I just hope,” She shook her head. “I guess I just don’t know what’s expected of me.”

            “Well, I can tell you this. Speaking purely from a man’s standpoint.” He cleared his throat. “Your wife is quite the looker.”

            “I noticed.” Lightning said, trying hard – and failing miserably – to hide her smile.

            “Do you um, do you go that way?” He asked her. “And please, superior officer or not, feel free to tell me to go to hell if I overstepped.”

            She looked at him and laughed softly. “It’s alright, sir. In all honesty, I’ve never really had the time or the inclination to explore my sexuality. The night before I was married, I couldn’t sleep. I picture myself with some mammoth brute of the Yun Clan, you know the type.”

            “More muscles than brains?”

            “We both know that isn’t true.” Lightning said to him. He gave an agreeing nod. The Pulsian warriors fought ferociously, but intelligently. They had sound tactics and excellent stratagems. Which explained why Cocoon was losing the war so thoroughly. “But when I thought about having to spend my years with someone like that, it wasn’t necessarily an unpleasant fantasy.”

            “Then reality set in,” Rygdea said.

            “Very true.” Lightning said. “And you know what? I can’t see my time with Oerba Yun Fang being horrible. I mean it could be worse.”

            “It always can,” He admitted.

            Lightning closed her eyes and forced herself to relax. “It was only after I learned that you were the chosen daughter of Cocoon, did I agree to this union.” Fang had said to her. She wasn’t sure what the woman had meant by that. Was she glad to be marrying Lightning? Or was it something else? Though she really wished it hadn’t, her mind once again flew to what Serah had said to her. About the Pulsian’s penchant for sharing. She sighed and shook the thoughts away. Dwelling on what might be wasn’t doing her a single service. She would deal with what came as best as she was able.

            It was all she could do.

 

            A terrible shrieking noise snapped her from her slumber. She didn’t realize she’d even gone to sleep. She looked out the window of the transport and was stunned by what she saw. Completely surrounding the craft were huge dragon-like creatures with riders upon their backs. She recognized the markings on their faces and chests as those of the Yun.

            She remembered well the havoc that these beast-riders wreaked upon their forces. Despite how massive and loud the monsters seemed, she knew the truth. The stories of their hit and run guerrilla attacks were many. Like phantoms from the skies, monster and master alike would descend upon Cocoon positions and slaughter men in their beds while they slept. Sentries would be carried away by the dragons to be devoured or fed to the young.

            It was just one more reminder in a growing list that the war was not just with the world’s citizenry. To fight against Gran Pulse was to battle a world entire. Those of this land had an affinity with not only each other but even the beasts, as was evidenced now outside the window.

            “Seems we’re being given and escort,” Rygdea said, smiling. “Glad to see them flying with us and not against us.”

            Lightning nodded. “I hear that,” She said, watching the riders. She found herself enthralled as they sat astride the huge flying predators as easily as someone on Cocoon would ride a motorcycle. She wondered if perhaps Fang would be willing to teach her how to do so. She pictured herself sitting upon the back of a dragon similar to that which she stared at. Her long pink hair whipping behind her. The wind in her face as she dipped and rolled upon the creature’s back. She smiled widely.

            “You seem happy,” Rygdea said.

            “Just thinking of something.” She offered him.

            The transport soared through the Pulsian sky, nearing the large city of Oerba. The riders veered off as the craft let out a burst from the engines, lowering gently to the grasses just outside the township proper. The transport shuddered as it touched down.

            Lightning sat a moment longer, steadying her nerves. Rygdea looked at her. “You alright?” As she looked at him, he chuckled. “Right. Dumb question.”

            “Lieutenant Colonel?” Lightning asked him. “Would you do me a favor? No matter what happens, no matter how this all goes down, please see that my sister is taken care of. I trust Cid. He’s a good man, but…”

            Rygdea offered his hand to her. “I promise, Lightning. I’ll make sure he keeps his word.”

            “Thank you, sir,” She responded, taking his hand firmly in hers. She stared at him a moment longer and turned to look out the window. The people of Oerba had arrived to see their War Chief’s new bride. “Welcome to the first day of the rest of my life,” She said, nervously. She rose to her feet and walked with him behind her to the exit of the transport. She emerged into the warm summer sun of Gran Pulse. The heat was stifling. She suddenly understood why the people of the world seemed to wear so little. She was already beginning to sweat.

            The children that gathered to view her wore expressions of awe and open curiosity. The adults, however, was a mixed bag of respect, anger, hatred and fear. All of these, she could understand. The young, more likely as not, had never even seen someone from Cocoon, let alone a soldier. But the men and women that viewed her saw a figure responsible for five years of horror standing before them. She was a reminder to anyone who’d lost a loved one to the fighting over the past half decade.

            She was surprised, sadly to see that her wife was not among those that had gathered. A pair of massive Yun warriors stepped forward. “Haere mai. Ka tangohia e koe matou ki tou nohoanga.” One of them said, motioning her to follow.

            Lightning sighed heavily. In the whole of the years she’d been engaged in the war, she’d never bothered to learn the Pulsian language. Now, she was kicking herself for her lack. She looked to Rygdea, hopeful.

            He smiled at her. “He said to follow them. They’ll take you to your new house.”

            “How do I say thank you?” She asked him.

            “Mauruuru koutou,” He said to her. “Your wife speaks Cocoon. You might wanna get her to teach you Pulsian.”

            “No shit,” She said to him, before turning back to the pair of retainers. She let out a breath and descended the stairs. “Mauruuru koutou,” She said to the pair. They both offered her a nod and walked along in front of her. She turned to glance over her shoulder. Rygdea had already returned to the transport. She could hear the engines warming up. The ball of lead grew larger in her stomach. Where was Fang? She asked herself. The people of Oerba followed along in a massive group behind them.

            A few of the children reached out to touch her, no doubt to assuage their curiosity, but the youth’s parents pulled their hands away from her. As she entered the town she was…pleasantly surprised. It looked incredibly civilized. She wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but she didn’t expect this. During the war, she’d only seen military encampments and border outposts. Tents of leather and gatherings of warriors. She’d been given to understand that cities of Gran Pulse were few and far between, the people, from what she’d learned, preferring to live in harmony with nature. Roughing it, by choice, in the wilds. 

            She’d never had occasion to actually see a Gran Pulse city. While definitely rustic and less advanced that Cocoon, Oerba was far from what she’d been prepared for. Buildings several stories tall, constructed of stone, metal and wood lined the streets. While they didn’t bother themselves with vehicles like Cocoon did, the town still had wide lanes so the beasts of burden they used for transport and heavy work could pass side by side and not cause a cluster.

            As she moved about, she found herself feeling a bit more at ease. She reached up and loosened the top buttons of her uniform jacket. Sweat was beginning to drip down her neck and back. She figured it must have been nearly a hundred degrees in the direct sunlight. Explains why everyone has such wonderful tans. She said, smiling. She knew people that her sister hung out with that paid good money in salons that would kill to have skin as bronzed as this.

            The men escorted her to a courtyard near the sea. They turned and moved a short distance from a long three and a half foot tall retaining wall and ascended a set of stairs. She followed along silently. The Yun that led her turned a large brass door handle and pushed the door open. It was a heavy wood and metal affair that looked extremely sturdy. Even with her rather considerable strength, she wasn’t sure she’d be able to get through it, should the need arise. She was both comforted by and fearful of the fact.

            The room beyond was small and open. It reminded her of the studio apartment that she and Serah shared when they first moved into Bodhum after their mother died.

            “Ko to koutou whare hou tenei.” The warrior that had led her to the dwelling said to her.

            “I don’t speak Pulsian, yet.” Lightning said. “Do you know Cocoon, by any chance?”

            The pair looked at each other and turned back to her. “All Yun speak the viper’s language,” He said, his tone full of disgust. “We are home. We should not have to speak it here.”

            She sighed. So that’s the way it’s gonna be. “I’m sorry. I know my presence offends you.”

            “You are the bride of our War Chief. Whatever our feelings for you may be, you are respected. No harm will come to you while she lives.” He said to her.

            “While she lives.” The words reverberated in her mind. “What happens to me if something befalls her?” She asked. “I’ll be slain, won’t I?”

            “That is for the Maker to decide,” He said. “Rest. Your wife returns soon.” He shut the door behind him, leaving her alone in the room.

            Lightning stood for long moments, not really sure what to do. Her eyes fell to the large bed. It had been made meticulously. She sat on the edge and found it to be rather comfortable. She was glad for it. The head rested against the wall that the door sat upon. Above the headboard was a moderate sized window with blue curtains drawn back. A lot of natural light was allowed in. Next to the head of the bed was a sturdy night stand with a trio of drawers. Sitting upon the top was an oil lamp and a photograph. She picked up the picture and looked at it. Fang stood with a devil-may-care smirk and her arms draped around the shoulders of a girl a few years younger than her with vibrant pink-red hair and a very, very bright smile.

            Lightning grinned and set the photo back down. She then looked about the room itself. Across from the bed was a small table with a thick wooden top and four simple, yet sturdy chairs around it. Along the opposite wall of the bed was a small kitchen with a stove, a refrigerator, and appliances. She was secretly glad for this. She wasn’t much of a cook, but she knew that she’d be even worse if she didn’t have things such as stove and a microwave to ease the burden.

            A door to the back of the room housed a bathroom with a large bathtub, a toilet, and a washbasin.

            At the foot of the bed was a small living space. It was little more than a sofa, electronics suite, and wooden stand, but it was all nicely arranged.

            All in all the space was small, but it didn’t seem cluttered. It was lived-in and homey. Lightning, having spent a majority of her life in barracks with other soldiers, or in tents on the battlefield found herself not having any true issue with it. “I could get used to this,” She said, nodding. In addition to the understated yet tasteful furniture, she could see personal touches. The dishes that were stacked upon the shelves along the kitchen were tasteful terracotta, painted with flowers, and various pleasant looking plants. The artwork, what little of it was apparent, were peaceful scenes of sunsets, flora, and fauna or just simple woven items such as shawls, blankets, and tapestries.

            It was obvious that her new wife was very proud of her culture. Lightning thought it fitting.

            Her heart leaped into her throat as the handle of the door moved. She rose to her feet, clasping her hands before her. She wasn’t sure what else to do.

            For the first time in three days, since the moment they wed, she looked upon her wife. Oerba Yun Fang stepped into the small apartment, bearing a sizable basket in her hands. She looked Lightning in the eye as she closed the door behind her. Neither spoke.

            Fang moved over and sat the basket down on the table. Lightning was nervous as could be. She had absolutely no idea what she was supposed to do. She wiped the palms of her hands on her trousers. For several seconds, the woman rummaged in the basket. She turned about, holding what looked like a bundle of clothes. Slowly she walked over and offered them to Lightning. “You might want to put these on,” She said, softly. “You’re gonna get heat stroke if you keep walkin’ around in that uniform.”

            “Where,” Lightning began a she took the bundle. “Where are my things?”

            Fang stepped to a large wardrobe against the wall beside the sofa. She opened it and turned to Lightning. She could see that all of the clothing that wasn’t duplicates of her Guardian Corps uniform hung within. “I know you’re proud of it, but wearing your military uniform here might offend the hell out a lot of people.”

            Lightning was willing to readily concede that. Fang, strangely seemed a fan of light tops and saris, of which she had quite a few. Some more intricately woven than others. Some were silk, some wool and some made of simple cotton. She looked down at the clothes in her arms.

            She considered going into the bathroom to change but decided against it. This woman was her wife. Sooner or later, she was going to have to be naked in front of her. With a nervous blush, Lightning set the clothing down on the bed and began removing her attire. Her hands were shaking as she unbuttoned her uniform jacket. She was startled when weapon calloused hands ran over her trembling fingers. She looked up to see Fang close to her, smiling. “Allow me,” She said, softly. For a moment, Lightning just stared at her wife. Slowly, she dropped her hands, letting the taller woman take over.

            Fang slowly, deliberately began removing the heavy garments. An avarice sparkle filled her eyes as she relieved the soldier of her uniform. As more and more of Lightning’s pale skin was revealed, she felt her mouth watering. “You’re beautiful,” She said, looking into Lightning’s eyes.

            “Thank you.” She returned softly. “So are you.”

            Fang gave her a genuine smile. “Never thought I’d hear a Cocoon viper say something like that to me.”

            Lightning swallowed back her anger at being labeled a viper. Fang had been raised listening to the propaganda just as she had. All Lightning’s life, she’d heard that Gran Pulse was filled with vicious brute savages that were no better than animals. And she was sure that the stories of Cocoon, as told by the Pulsian elders were no more flattering.

            After a minute or two, Lightning stood in the middle of their small dwelling clad in nothing but her pale pink undergarments. Fang stepped around behind her and undid the clasp on her bra. “It rarely, if ever dips below ninety degrees during the summer in Oerba,” She said to her wife. She moved to the kitchen sink and soaked a washcloth with cold water. She wrung it out and moved back to the pink haired soldier. She carefully caressed the woman’s skin with it.

            Lightning let out a soft gasp. She closed her eyes and enjoyed the feel of the cool cloth.

            “You’ll get used to the heat,” Fang said. She worked it over every bit of skin, wicking the sweat from her form. She stepped around and stared into Lightning’s face. “Look at me.” Lightning did as she was told without hesitation. Her eyes searched those of the larger woman. “I know this is awkward for you. But I don’t want you to be nervous around me.” She said, leaning closer to Lightning. “I want you to be happy here.”

            “I,” Lightning swallowed. “I’ve never…”

            Fang raised an eyebrow. “Never?”

            Lightning lowered her eyes and shook her head. “When my mother passed away, I joined the Guardian Corps and devoted my life to the military.”

            “And in that whole time, you never had a boyfriend or a girlfriend?” Fang asked her. “I’m sure there had to be someone that showed interest.”

            “Oh, there were plenty.” Lightning said. “But I never showed any interest in them.”

            Fang chuckled. “Nothing to distract you from being the perfect little soldier, yeah?”

            “I had a responsibility to my sister. I had to…” Lightning began.

            Fang pressing a finger to her lips. “What about a responsibility to yourself?” Her words weren’t accusatory, but merely curious. “You owe it to yourself to be happy. I’m sure your sister would agree.”

            Lightning didn’t have any response. “I just…never thought about it.”

            Fang took her cheeks lightly in her hands and leaned forward, pressing her lips to those of her lover. It was chaste and innocent to start. She then drew back and looked Lightning in the eyes. “You’re my wife, Lightning. I’m going to do everything in my power to make you happy. I know you only agreed to this for peace. But there is nothing written that says it has to be arduous and filled with regret. I hope we can come to love each other. I’m willing to try if you are.”

            Lightning swallowed and nodded. “I want this marriage to work.”

            “I’m glad to hear that,” Fang said. “Here,” She said, lifting the light top. “Put this on. It’s a bit more traditional and a lot lighter. It’ll keep you from passing out in this heat.”

            Lightning took the clothing and donned it. The slim top, the short shorts, and the pale pink sari were quite comfortable. “You can carry the gunblade,” Fang said. “It’s quite alright.”

            “I wasn’t sure if your people would want me to…”

            “We’re married, Lightning.” She gave her a smile. “They’re your people now as well.”

            It was at that moment that everything sank in. Gran Pulse was her home. She was a Pulsian. Her knees got weak. She fell to the edge of the bed. She buried her face in her hands.

            Fang watched her as her body began shaking as she wept. She eased down beside her bride and wrapped her strong arms about her. She didn’t say anything, she simply held Lightning as she broke down. While she couldn’t imagine how the woman felt, she at the very least understood Lightning’s reaction. It wasn’t every day you were asked to give up everything you knew for the sake of the world you lived in.

            She just sat and comforted the girl. The first part of being a good spouse was being there when you were needed. And at that moment, Lightning needed her. The pink haired soldier lay her head on Fangs shoulder and cried. She wept for the life she left behind, the sister she’d sacrificed so much for. She wept for an unknown life in a world she wasn’t ready for.

            It was all so much to take. But the powerful arms that held her, the heavy thump-thump of a heartbeat and…humming? She sniffed and couldn’t help but smile as the huntress softly hummed while rocking Lightning back and forth was…comforting. For several moments, Lightning was content to just sit there in her wife’s embrace. “You have a really nice voice,” She said, her voice barely a whisper.

            “Thanks,” Fang said. “Feel better?”

            Lightning nodded. “I just needed to get it out of my system, I guess.”

            “Look, Lightning…”

            “Call me Light.”

            “Light,” Fang said, smiling. “I like that.” She chuckled a little. “I know this is hard for you. I really do. I can’t imagine what I’d do if I had to move to Cocoon. Probably drive me insane, all those people living on top of each other.” She shuddered. “There’s going to be a lot to adjust to, I’m sure. But I’m going to do everything I can to make it as painless as possible for you.”

            “I appreciate that.” Lightning said, smiling at her wife. “You said that you were hoping we could come to love each other.” She bit her lip. “I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.”

            Fang grinned widely, moving in for a kiss. “I don’t either.”

Chapter Text

Lightning had decided to leave her gunblade in the room she shared with Fang. She assured her that it would be safe. Theft was nigh nonexistent in Oerba. “You are right.” She said to Fang as the pair walked along the road hand in hand. “This is definitely more comfortable than that uniform.”

Fang looked at her and smiled. “Is this okay?” She asked lifting their hands. “I didn’t want to make you uncomfortable.”

“It’s…” Lightning looked at their intertwined fingers. “It’s different, I’m not going to lie.” She then looked at Fang. “But it’s nice. I’m okay with it.” She looked around and noticed that there were very few people on the streets. “Where is everyone?”

“At the celebration.” Fang said. “I would like to say that it’s to honor our marriage. I would really, really like to say that.” She gave Lightning a warm, loving smile.

Lightning raised an eyebrow. “But?”

“The Yun and the Dia will use any excuse to throw a party. You’ll come to find out that we’re quite a happy people. I led a hunting party just after I arrived back from Cocoon a few days ago. We brought down and Adamantoise for the feast.”

Lightning furrowed her brow. In the past three days, she’d been learning what she could about the local flora and fauna. When she finally pieced the animal together with the name, her eyes dilated. “You brought down one of those?”

“Yeah.” Fang said, shrugging. “We do it all the time. It’s not that big a deal. You just gotta be careful.”

“I remember-,” Lightning immediately stopped. “Never mind.” She said, shaking her head.

Fang looked at her. “What were you going to say?”

“It doesn’t matter.” Lightning offered. “It was stupid.”

“It was about the war, wasn’t it?” Fang asked her.

“How did you…?”

Fang sighed. “We can’t all go on pretending it didn’t happen. It’s going to come up in conversation. I have memories of fighting it just like you did. I lost a lot of friends to the soldiers from Cocoon. Just as I’m sure you lost a lot of friends to my people. It was a war. It happened. Like it or not, it’s a part of both our people’s histories.” She turned and took Lightning’s hands. “And it’s because of you that it came to a stop.”

“I didn’t…” Lightning began.

Fang pressed a finger to her lips, cutting her words off. “I know what happened. All of the people of Gran Pulse do. The new Primarch made sure of it. What you did saved a lot of people.”

“What do you know of Paddra?” Lightning asked her.

“It’s a large city to the north of here. About four, five days hard ride.” Fang said.

“There was an encampment just outside of the city. About twenty klicks. My unit and I had orders to burn that encampment to the ground.” Lightning crossed her arms and shook her head. “To strike a blow to your morale, they said. When we got there, we found that it wasn’t a military outpost. It was a refugee camp. Paddra had been hit pretty hard. The settlement we found was mostly children and wounded. A few warriors, but…” She sighed and slowly shook her head. “Captain Rygdea and I wouldn’t do it. We radioed back that it was just a bunch of noncombatants.”

Fang listened with horror. “What did they say?” She had a feeling she knew what Lightning was going to say.

Lightning chuckled. “Proceed with the operation, Sergeant. That’s an order.” She looked Fang in the eye. “That’s when the Captain and I went off the reservation. We should have realized before then.” She shuddered. “It was too much. I saw their faces, Fang.” She again looked at her wife. “As we stood on that hill, looking over them, I saw their faces. Children, no older than four or five staring at us. They were terrified. Afraid of what we would do them.” Her eyes teared up. “Your world is filled with ravenous beasts and dangerous animals. Things that would and have given people nightmares.” She pulled Fang close and rested her head against her chest and began crying. “And we were the monsters to those children. I was what scared them.”

Fang held her as she wept. “But you didn’t hurt any of them, did you?” Lightning shook her head. “Yeah, they were scared. But in the end, you saved them. You and all those men you were with turned around and betrayed everything you’d been brought up to believe for them. That’s not nothing, Lightning. When those children grow up, they’re going to tell their kids about the beautiful woman that stood over them and fought her own people for them.”

Lightning gave her a nod. Fang used her thumbs and wiped the tears from her eyes. “Thank you.”

“I don’t like seeing you cry.” Fang said softly. “What were you going to say about the Adamantoise?”

“I watched one decimate an entire regiment. Took a lot of bullets and grenades to bring it down.”

Fang nodded. “Best thing is to hamstring them and take them in the neck.”

“Yeah, we learned that way too late.” Lightning said. “So, is there anything I should know? Any kind of etiquette I should follow? I don’t want to piss anyone off.”

Fang thought for a moment. “The only thing that might be an issue is the other suitors I’ve turned down. I’ve been of marrying age for about five years. I’ve turned down everyone that’s asked.”

Lightning couldn’t help but smile at that. “But you agreed to marry me?” Fang simply gave her a nod. “At the risk of sounding incredibly insulting, why? I mean you said that it was only after you learned that I was the chosen daughter of Cocoon that you agreed to the marriage. What did you mean by that?”

Fang turned to continue walking, pulling Lightning along with her. “Every War Chief wants to be remembered. All of us want a Legacy to leave behind. My father, even though he was a gifted warrior, no one will remember his name. But I’m the War Chief that sealed the breech between Gran Pulse and Cocoon.” She looked at Lightning. “And earned a beautiful bride in the process.”

Something suddenly occurred to Lightning. “You agreed to wed me because I’m a woman, didn’t you?” Fang looked at her. Lightning suddenly remembered what she was told about the process preceding their marriage. When the whole arrangement was brought up, the Yun did everything short of outright lie about the fact that their leader was a woman. “You knew that if Cid learned that…”

“He knew.” Fang said. “I’d already spoken to him. When her first proposed the marriage and learned that I was a woman, believe it or not, he suggested Captain Rygdea.”

“Explains why he didn’t seem surprised.”

Fang turned her face to Lightning. “But I chose you.”

Lightning laughed. “That is going to be such a blow to Rygdea’s ego.”

“Fancies himself a lady’s man, does he?” Fang asked as they walked along.

“I’m not going to lie, he’s pretty good looking.” Lightning said. “Before-,” She again stopped.

Fang smiled and looked at her again. “Before all of this, you were considering a relationship with him?” Lightning bit her lip and nodded. Fang sighed and turned away from her wife. “I’m sorry.”

Lightning regarded her in surprise. “What are you sorry for?”

“That I ruined your plans. With Captain Rygdea, you would have been able to have a normal life. Or some semblance of it.” She shook her head as she looked at Lightning. She saw a whisper of tears in Fang’s eyes. “And I took that from you.”

Lightning stared at Fang for a long time. “You didn’t take anything from me.” Lightning said, finally. She leaned forward and pressed her lips to Fang’s. They’re so soft, she thought to herself. She felt the taller woman’s arms moved around her waist loosely, allowing her the option to pull away if she wished. Butterflies filled the pit of Lightning’s stomach as Fang took the lead and deepened the kiss. Lightning’s hands drifted up her wife’s muscular back and threaded into her raven locks.

Fang’s own hands slid down and took firm hold of Lightning’s bottom. The pink haired soldier could feel the strength in those hands. After Maker knew how long, they pulled away. Their lips swollen from the impassioned embrace. Both were panting excitedly. Fang rested her forehead against Lightning’s. “Wow.” She said, her voice barely above a whisper.

“Yeah.” Lightning said, breathlessly. “Wow is right.”

“You said you never…?” Fang began.

“That was my first kiss.” Lightning offered, chuckling. “Twenty-one years old. Kinda pathetic, huh?”

Fang shook her head. “Nothin’ to be ashamed of.” She gave Lightning a soft reassuring smile. “Only in storybooks does a violent warlord get to actually despoil and virgin princess.”

Lightning couldn’t help but laugh. “That sounded really bad.” She wiped the tears from her eyes. “Not on the all inaccurate, though.”

“Come on. We’ve a celebration to get to.” Fang said. She led Lightning along through the streets and out of town along the beach to a massive gathering.

Lightning could see huge bonfires dotting the shoreline. Above them all, huge roasting pieces of meat sizzled. The smell was rather enticing, to be honest.

“Fang!” A cheerful voice called out. Lightning saw a petite girl with bright red-orange hair rush forward to jump into Fang’s arms. She began talking rapidly in the Pulsian language.

Lightning couldn’t understand what she was saying, but didn’t mistake that the girls were very close.

“Vanille, this is Lightning. The one I told you about.” Fang said motioning to her.

The girl turned and looked at Lightning with what had to have been the brightest smile Lightning had ever seen. “Oh, she is pretty.” Vanille said, moving around Lightning, appraising her as one would a fine Chocobo. “She’s got good legs.” Vanille then stood in front of Lightning and gave her a nod. “I’m Oerba Dia Vanille. It’s nice to finally meet you.”

“And you as well, Vanille.” Lightning said, offering a bow. “I’m sorry for my lack of knowledge about you.”

“Oh, that’s okay.” Vanille said. “You’re my new sister. We have all the time in the world to learn about each other.”

Lightning looked at Fang, her eyebrow raised. “Vanille and are were raised together. Vanille’s parents were killed when she was very young. My parents took her in and we’ve been together ever since.”

“I’m sorry for your loss.” Lightning said, looking at Vanille.

“Why?” Vanille asked, curiously. “You didn’t eat them. A behemoth did that.” It was obvious to Lightning that Vanille was well and truly over their deaths. “Besides, I have a new family now.” She gave Lightning a tight hug. “And it just got a little bigger.”

“Kāore te wahine kairau waipera no konei.” A rather large brutish warrior snarled from near the fire.

Both Fang and Vanille turned to regard him. Fang growled low in her throat as she approached him. “Ko ia te wahine koutou Tumuaki a War. Ka mau koe tou arero, me te faaite i te faatura.”

Lightning leaned over to Vanille. “What was that?”

“He said that the ‘viper whore’ shouldn’t be here. Fang said that you were her wife and that he needs to shut his mouth and show respect.”

Lightning narrowed her eyes. “Would it be seen as insulting if I were to kick his ass?”

Vanille turned and looked at her. “No. But that’s Oerba Yun Kang. He’s a pretty accomplished hunter. Took down a lot of soldiers during the war. He wanted Fang’s hand, but she rebuffed him. She thinks he’s a buffoon.”

“Does he speak Cocoon?” Lightning asked her.

Vanille nodded. “All of the Yun do.  They just refuse to speak it.”

“So he can understand me?”

“He’ll understand you just fine.” Vanille said. “But you use a gunblade, don’t you?”

“Any sword will do.” Lightning said. “Can you find me one?”

Vanille nodded. “If you challenge him and lose, Fang has to defend your honor. But if she has to fight for you, you’ll never have the respect of the fellow warriors.”

“What if I win? Will it shut him up?”

“He’s one of the best warriors in the village. Nowhere near Fang’s caliber, but…”

“But it’ll keep him in line?” Lightning asked, crossing her arms. She watched intently as Fang and he stared each other down.

“Oh yeah.” Vanille said. “I’ll get you a sword.”

“Good.” The pink haired woman said, moving toward the pair. “Excuse me.” She said, stepped over and putting a hand on Fang’s shoulder. “I couldn’t but overhear.” She looked up at Kang. “You’re angered that Fang chose to marry me and nor you, is that correct?”

He stared at her, his eyes narrowed. “Kahore ki te mea ki te wahine kairau neke i ahau.”

Fang again stepped forward, but Lightning managed to force her back. “You know…only a coward would insult someone in a language they don’t understand.” Lightning said to him. “You know how to speak Cocoon. Do so. The insult means nothing to me if I can’t understand it.”

He leaned down into her face. “Viper whore.” He said, his voice barely a growl. “Is that plain enough for you?”

“It is.” She said. “Do you feel better, now that you’ve got that off your chest?”

“You are an insult to everyone that fought in your war.” He said. “You being here is offensive.”

“Anything else?” Lightning asked him. “Come on. Get it all out.”

He looked at her in confusion. “What are you saying?”

“You have a problem with me being here.” Lightning said. She crossed her arms. “Okay. So what? What are you going to do about it?”

“Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do about it. Lest I wish to challenge the War Chief.” He looked at Fang.

“Oh, you can.” Fang said, stepping forward. “Take up your spear and let’s dance.”

Despite his size and weight advantage, the man knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he wouldn’t stand a chance against the woman. “I am no fool.”

“Then don’t issue the challenge to her.” Lightning said. “Issue it to me.”

“If I kill you, I will have to fight her.” He said, pointing to Fang.

“Not today, you won’t.” Lightning said. She turned to Fang. “If I lose, you will not interfere.”

“I have to.” Fang said. “I have to defend your honor, or avenge your death. It’s Yun law.”

“The law doesn’t apply here, today.” Lightning said. “Think of it as…a suitor’s challenge. He’s fighting for the right to steal you from me.”

Fang bit her lip. “Are you sure?” Lightning could see the hurt in her eyes. Are you so eager to be free of me? Her look seemed to ask.

Lightning pulled her in and kissed her fiercely. “I am going to fight for you. I’ve read a little on Pulsian traditions. Part of courtship is to show that I’m physically capable of protecting and providing for my mate, right?” As Fang nodded, Lightning smiled. “Then let me show you.”

Fang smiled. “Win for me.”

“I promise.” Lightning said. Vanille trotted up, carrying a large sword. “It was the only one I could find. Most of the Yun and Dia use spears.”

Lightning took the blade and held it out, looking down along the edge. It was superbly crafted and of comparable weight and balance to her gunblade. “It’ll do.” She said, looking up at Kang. “You win, you get her.” She said, thumbing toward Fang. “I win?” She grinned widely. “Well…” She looked around at the gathered crowed. “Everyone’s watching already. They’re gonna know that you got your ass kicked by a Cocoon viper in one on one combat.” She lifted the weapon up. “With a sword.”

He pulled his spear from his back. “Ki te mate.” He said spinning the weapon about in his hand.

Lightning turned to Fang to see her narrow her eyes. “Ehara i tenei ra. Ki te mamae. Mate Kahore he tangata e i teie mahana.”

Kang grinned. “Afraid of losing your whore?” He asked Fang.

“What did he say?” Lightning asked her wife.

“He wants a fight to the death.” Fang said. “I told him that you will fight to the pain. First blood. I don’t want anyone dying today.”

Lightning looked at him. “You draw blood on me even once, you win. I must draw blood three times on you to win. How’s that?” She asked him.

He looked to Fang. She gave him a nod. “Agreed.” He said. “But victory means I get Fang.” He looked right at her. “And you will bed me.” He gave her a lascivious smile. “At my choosing.”

Fang snarled low. “Agreed.” She looked to Lightning. “Be mindful. He’s very, very good with a spear.”

“You ever seen me use a sword?” Lightning asked. Fang shook her head. “Battle turns you on, right?” At Fang’s smirk and nod, Lightning kissed her. “Then tonight’s gonna be a good night.”

“Clear the ring.” Vanille said, motioning everyone back. Fang moved to stand beside her sister. “Relax.” Vanille said. “She’ll win.”

Fang couldn’t help but be heartened and hurt all that same time. “She didn’t have to do this.” She said, softly to Vanille. “She could have just ignored him.”

Vanille sighed. “You don’t get it.”

“Don’t get what?” Fang asked her.

“She’s doing this for you.” She looked at her sister. “She wants to show you that she’s willing to do anything for you.” Vanille smiled. “Even though you’ve only been in each other’s company for a very short period of time, she’s starting to fall for you.”

“You don’t know that, Vanille.” Fang said, crossing her arms. “It takes longer than that to fall in love with someone.”

Vanille pointed at the woman as she stretched and flexed, preparing for the fight. “Does it really?”

Fang had nothing to say to that. “Even if she wins, I’m sending him to Paddra. They could probably use someone with a lot of muscle and not a lot of brains.”

Vanille chuckled, but said nothing, noticing that Fang didn’t respond to her conclusion.

Lightning removed her sari and handed it to Fang. “Hold on to that for me.” She said, smiling at her. Fang took it and held it close. It was warm from being wrapped about the pink haired soldier. She drew it up to her face and breathed deep. It had Lightning’s scent on it.

Vanille saw what Fang had done. “Timber.” She said, giggling.

“Oh, shut up.” Fang said, nudging her with her elbow.

Lightning faced Kang square on. “You ready?”

“I am.” He said, gripping his spear in two hands. “Three to one.” He looked her in the eye.

Lightning rested the blade on her shoulder and put her hand on her hip. “Say when.”

He lunged quickly, his spear thrusting forward. Lightning simply stepped to the side. His weapon shot past her with inches to spare. She spun on her foot and immediately drew a narrow line across his cheek. “One to me.” She said, dancing back out of range.

Kang roared and swung, taking a step toward her. The barbed tip whipped about, whistling as it cut the air. Lightning responded by jumping and flipping to the side over the haft. She landed and dropped to a crouch, slicing him along the front of the thigh. “And that’s two.” She said, smiling.

Fang couldn’t believe how incredibly agile the petite warrior was. Lightning suddenly seemed like an extremely fitting name.

She once again stood with her blade on her shoulder and her hand on her hip. “One more and I win.”

Kang snarled and kept his distance. He’d been cocky and it had cost him. The stranger was fast and well versed with her weapon. He was stronger, of that he had no doubt, but he was also a great deal slower. He had to use the reach of his spear to his advantage. “You are skilled, for a viper.”

“Don’t you mean viper whore?” Lightning said, giving him a smirk.

He thrust quickly at her. She moved aside rapidly. He whipped his spear sideways, but she was there with the sword to block his strike. “Fang, dear? Do you want me to end it, or should I keep going to make him think he’s doing well?”

Fang raised an eyebrow. She’s not taking this seriously. The woman thought. “End it quickly. The longer it goes on, the more chance he has of getting lucky.” She looked at Kang. “Because Lady Luck knows he isn’t skilled enough to win.”

Lighting sighed. “You heard my wife.” She spun and with a hard shot, slammed the blade down onto the haft of his spear, cutting it in two. She tossed the sword aside and snatched the broken end of the spear from the air as she turned on her heel and slashed him directly across the front of his bare chest with it. Blood dripped from the wound. “And that, my large friend, makes three.” She dropped the weapon to the ground and turned to her wife. She moved over to Fang and pulled her in giving her another deep, passionate kiss. “Seems I won you fair and square.”

Fang’s heart thundered in her chest. “You had me worried there for a minute.”

“Did you like watching me?” Lightning asked her.

Fang gently wrapped the light pink sari back around the woman. “I loved it. You’re very good with a sword. And I see where the name Lightning came from.” She gave Lightning’s hands a squeeze then let go moving over to stand before Kang. “I want you out of Oerba. Tonight. Take a Chocobo and some provisions and go north. Report to Paddra Ballad Caius. Tell him that you’re in exile for one full cycle of the seasons.”

Kang furrowed his brow. “You can’t…”

“It’s done.” Fang said. “You insulted my wife and you insulted me. You challenged her honor and by doing so, you challenged mine. And you lost. I want you out of my sight. You’re a damn good hunter, Kang. Caius knows that and he’ll use you. Now go. Make sure you pick up another spear from the armory.”

He lowered his head and nodded. “Yes, War Chief.” He turned and left the beach without another word.

Lightning, as she watched the display, didn’t know how to feel. Part of her was proud that she could show Fang that she wasn’t someone that needed protecting. She was glad that she could demonstrate that she was a warrior just as much as those of the village.

But at the same time, she felt foolish. Fang had the situation handled. And in the end, she’d cost the people of Oerba an able-bodied hunter.

Vanille moved up beside her. “Don’t let it get you down.” She said, taking Lightning’s arm. “This kind of thing happens quite often.”

Lightning looked at her. “She’s right.” Fang said as she moved back over. “He insulted you. You had every right to challenge him for it.” She rested her hands on Lightning’s shoulders. “It just kind of hurt, that’s all.”

“I didn’t mean to hurt you, Fang.” Lightning said to her. “I just, I wanted to show you that I’m willing to fight for you.”

“That’s alright.” Fang said, hugging her. “Time for some food.”

“Have you ever had roasted Adamantoise before?” Vanille asked. Lightning shook her head. “Oh, it’s delicious.” She said, happily. “You’ll see.”

Lightning was somewhat surprised to find that it was quite tasty. It was different, but she rather enjoyed it. She and Fang sat upon furs and pillows beneath a shaded canopy watching as the people of Oerba danced and fought in mock gladiatorial contests. The village storyteller wove tales of ancient times for Lightning’s benefit. Vanille happily translated for her.

Earthenware mugs flowed with the golden colored honey wine. Lightning tried desperately to keep to the one mug. When Fang, who’d pounded down three, asked her why she wasn’t drinking, Lightning smiled at her. “Because I want to be sober for when we find our way home.”

Fang understood her meaning immediately and nodded, refusing any more of the drink herself. As the late afternoon disappeared into evening, Lightning found herself relaxing. She watched the children play, the couples dance and the warriors engage in friendly competition.

She was somewhat surprised when Fang was called on to wrestle with a pair of no-necks. “Come, War Chief. Bring your new bride for a bit of sport.” The men were both smiling brightly.

Fang turned to Lightning. “What do you say, love? A bit of grappling to warm us up for our own bout between the sheets later on tonight?”

Lightning was suddenly worried. She’d never wrestled before. “I’m not sure of the rules.”

Fang lifted her to her feet. “It’s nothing overly brutal. Just a spot of fun. Knockout or submission. I believe on Cocoon, you call it Mixed Martial Arts.”

Lightning immediately understood. “My sister’s boyfriend does that stuff.” She said, nodding. “I can do that.”

She and Fang moved down onto the sand, squaring off with the pair of large brutish warriors.

“I promise not to hurt you too badly, pink hair.” The man before Lightning offered.

Instead of jibing him back, Lightning offered a nod. “I appreciate that. I am fairly new at this.”

A heavy gong signaled the start of the fight. The mammoth of a man lunged at Lightning. She could see that he was strong but not quite as agile as she was. She used that to her advantage and dove, bracing her shoulder and slamming it into his right knee. He immediately pitched forward and tumbled to the sand. Lightning rolled aside as he fell and spun, diving onto his back.

As he tried to rise, she threw her arm around his neck and gripped her wrist, trying her best to choke him out. He threw his body weight to the side, dropping all three hundred pounds of him on top of her, but she kept her hold. He tried this several times. She could feel that she was going to be sore come morning, but she refused to give in.

It was a quick bout, but in the end, he tapped her arm, signaling that he submitted.

Fang, meanwhile, didn’t have such an easy time with her opponent. She rushed at him, looking to take him down quickly. She knew he was capable. He was one of those that had served with her during the war. She was possessed of a physical strength all out of proportion for a woman of her size. He swung a meaty fist at her head. She ducked below his strike and slid around behind him. She wrapped her arms about his waist and lifted him from the ground before spinning and throwing him face first into the dirt.

As she attempted to mimic her wife’s maneuver, the beastly man issued a backhand that caught her directly across the side of the face. It wasn’t enough to knock her from her feet, but it staggered her, giving him a reprieve. He got to his hands and knees and shot his foot back, catching Fang in the abdomen, hurling her back to hit the sand hard.

She fought to catch her breath. The wind was blown completely out of her lungs. Her adversary rose to his feet. He stalked in, proudly. His moment of victory was short-lived, however as Lightning sped up and lunged, throwing her entire body into his side, sending him staggering away from Fang.

Lightning was a bit surprised when instead of tackling him to the ground, she merely deflected off of his tremendous bulk. She hit the sand face down.

But that gave Fang the time she needed. She kicked herself to her feet and took two steps before leaping into the air. Her hard right fist came down across the big man’s head. He was thrown from his feet to land on his back in the sand. Fang knelt on his chest and pressed her hand to his throat. She drew her fist back and looked him in the eyes. “You give up, yeah?”

Lightning stepped beside Fang and crossed her arms looking down at him. “I don’t think you can take the both of us.”

He reached up and tapped Fang’s tattooed shoulder with a smile. “I yield.” He said, his voice filled with humor.

Fang rose and offered her hand as Lightning did the same. He took them both and was pulled to his feet. He offered his arm to Lightning. “The Cocoon viper proves herself a Yun at heart.”

Lightning immediately understood the compliment she’d just been paid. “Thank you.” She said to him. She turned to Fang and was suddenly concerned. A large bruise was forming on her cheek. “Your face.” She said, reaching up.

Fang shook her head and clasped Lightning’s hand. “It’ll be fine.” She kissed the woman’s fingers. “Come on. I think we’ve celebrated enough, yeah?” She pulled Lightning along and trotted back toward the small apartment.

           

           

 

Chapter Text

As they entered the apartment, Lightning couldn’t help but feel apprehensive. I’ve never done anything like this before. What if she’s disappointed with me? What if I can’t make her happy? What if…what if? All the doubt in the world seemed to drop down upon her shoulders.

Fang closed the door and turned to see Lightning standing in the middle of the room looking terribly nervous. “Light? Are you okay?” She moved up to the woman, resting her hands on her shoulders.

“I just…I’ve never been here before.” She said, her voice hitching. “When I’m fighting I have all the confidence in the world, but in situations like this, I really don’t have any frame of reference.” She looked at Fang. “I haven’t even watched an adult film before.”

Fang raised an eyebrow. “Are you serious?” She asked. “You’ve never even watched porn?”

Lightning shook her head, letting out a chuckle. “Sad, huh? My sister, who’s three years younger than me, knows more about sex than I do.” She buried her face in her hands. “Gods, I’m pathetic.”

“It’s not pathetic, Lightning. You just had different priorities. You gave up everything for your sister. Because of her, you never had a chance to have a life of your own.” She pulled her in for a hug. “I told you before. There’s no shame in that.”

“Thank you.” Lightning said, softly.

“Look.” Fang said, after a minute or two of holding her. “We don’t have to do anything you’re not comfortable with.” She pulled back and stared into Lightning’s eyes.

Lightning moved to speak, but no words would come out. She swallowed and tried again. “Have you ever…”

Fang bit her lip. “Yeah.” She said finally. “I’ve slept with men and women before.” She was prepared for a backlash. “Does that

Lightning shook her head. “No. I mean, not really.” She offered a chuckle. It didn’t quite reach her eyes, but Fang appreciated the effort. “It’s good that at least one of us knows what we’re doing.”

“Tell you what?” Fang said, taking Lightning’s hands. “Just follow my lead and we’ll stop when it gets too much for you, yeah?”

Lightning nodded. “Okay.”

Fang stepped back, clasped her fingers and rested her hands on her head. “Undress me. I’ve already seen you in your birthday suit, now it’s my turn, yeah? You should get an eyeful of what you’re getting yourself into.”

Lightning moved forward and slowly removed the silken blue sari with trembling hands. She meticulously folded it and set it in the table. She couldn’t help but smile as she heard a bit of an exasperated gasp coming from Fang. She turned around and saw the burning desire in her raven haired wife’s eyes. She grew a bit more brazen and stood with her chin between her thumb and forefinger. “Hmm,” She said, looking the woman up and down.

“Are you gonna just stand there?” Fang asked her.

“I’m deciding what to remove next.” Lightning offered. She had to admit, it was kind of nice to have a modicum of control. “I suppose the shirt…” She shook head. “No, that would be too quick, wouldn’t it?”

“Come on, Light. You’re killin’ me here.” Fang said, a touch of a whimper in her voice.

“I suppose you’re right.” Lightning said, kneeling to undo the leather straps of Fang’s open toed boots. Fang had to keep from growling in frustration as Lightning worked. Her adrenaline was rushing, her heart was pounding and she wanted nothing more than to take her wife by the arms, throw her onto the bed, and have her way with the pink haired woman. But she had to let Lightning do this at her own pace.

A pace that, as it turned out, did nothing but make Fang absolutely crazy. Lightning for her part was nowhere near as nervous. She was enjoying herself immensely. She made a dramatically slow ordeal of removing the bangles from about her wife’s left wrist one by one, gently brushing her fingers along Fang’s skin as she did so.

“I swear to the Maker, Lightning, you keep teasing me like this…” Fang threatened through clenched teeth.

Lightning looked at her. “You don’t want me to be uncomfortable, do you?” She knew she was pushing it. But she couldn’t deny the fun she was having.

“Oh, when you’re done torturing me, Sunshine, it’s your turn.” Fang’s eyes were nearly black with lust and longing. “Just you wait.”

“I’m not the one waiting, Fang.” Lightning said, plucking at the woman’s shirt. She leaned down and kissed her way up the woman’s iron hard stomach. The sensual contact earned a soft moan from Fang. She eased her hands up under the hem of Fang’s top and pushed it upward, slowly revealing the curve of her wife’s generous bust. She pulled the shirt free of Fang’s arms and lay it on the table with the rest of her garments. Lightning decided that she’d tortured Fang enough and knelt to remove the black shorts that she wore beneath the sari.

At last, Fang was nude of form. Lightning’s eyes traveled up and down the woman’s body and definitely liked what they saw. Fang’s skin was deeply tanned and hard as wrought iron. Every subtle shift of her stance caused the muscle to ripple. And it’s all mine. She thought to herself. The mental statement actually caught her by surprise. Before seeing Fang, she’d never found herself attracted to women before.

In retrospect, the only person she could ever remember being even slightly attracted to was Captain Rygdea. But seeing Fang like this, wanting her of all people…it was enough to make her blood boil. She finally got to Fang’s face. The dark bruise on her cheek did nothing to dull the beauty of the warrior. There were so many things Lightning wanted to say at that moment, but she couldn’t speak.

Fang stepped toward her and stared into her eyes as she began disrobing her. The sari was removed and cast aside. Fang was keen to show Lightning that she had toyed with fire by prolonging things as she had. And now she was going to learn how hot the flames could be. She could see her dark haired lover needed her. Now. Lightning’s clothing was sent flying as it was removed. Fang was forceful, but not brutally so.

In seconds, Lightning was in the same state of undress as was her wife. Fang wrapped her arms about Lightning’s waist and pulled her close, pressing her body against that of her lover. The heat of the taller woman immediately started her sweating. Fang leaned her head down, pressing their lips together.

Though she wished to do nothing more than dominate Lightning and make her scream, she restrained herself. Fang knew that this was uncharted territory for the pink haired warrior and she wished for Lightning’s first time to be something unforgettable. She wanted it to be a memory filled with love and joy, not fear and regret. As they kissed, Fang’s fingers wandered over soft, supple curves. She felt goose bumps form over Lightning’s body.

Lightning, for her part, relished the feel of Fang’s weapon rough hands on her. She could feel the stone crushing strength in the woman’s grip. She knew in that moment, that she would never have to fear. Yes, she was an accomplished soldier and feared nothing and no one, but in the darkest part of her mind, she had the desire to be swept off her feet by someone that could be strong when she wasn’t able. Someone that could protect her when she didn’t have the strength to protect herself.

Oerba Yun Fang would be that person for her. Fang pulled her lips away and began kissing a line down Lightning’s chin, jaw and neck. Her arms held the slender woman up as she proceeded ever downward. The expanse of Lightning’s chest, the swell of her breast, first one, then the other. She trailed just her fingertips down along the girl’s back and bottom, sending shivers up and down Lightning’s spine. The pinkette let out a sharp gasp as Fang gently nipped at one nipple, then the next. “My, my. Sensitive aren’t we?” She said, huskily.

Lightning dug her fingers into Fang’s thick hair as she moved further and further down. She felt the wet coolness of the huntress’ tongue on her flat stomach. She heard the giggle as Fang found the belly button piercing. She licked over it and took it in her teeth, giving just the slightest pull before letting it go, continuing to move south.

Lightning was lightheaded as Fang finally found the ground she was searching for. Fang lifted Lightning’s leg and draped her toned thigh over her shoulder. Lightning had impeccable balance, but it also required intense concentration. And as Fang’s tongue went to work, she quickly learned that she had neither. Fang quickly placed her hand flat against the small of Lightning’s back, holding her upright.

Inch by inch, Lightning’s body seemed to melt as Fang licked, sucked and nibbled her to a deep, bone-numbing climax. “Fang I can’t, I’m gonna…” Her words were stolen from her as her wife pushed her tongue deeper. “Faaaaaaaannnnnnggggg!” She drew the woman’s name out as she convulsed against her wife’s hungry mouth. “Oh,” A shudder. “Oh, god.” Another tremor. “I can’t…I have to lie down.” She said, her voice breathless.

Without an appreciable effort, Fang rose from the floor and took Lightning in her arms. She stepped to the bed and lay her bride down upon it. Lightning’s body still jerked and spasmed as she stared up into Fang’s eyes. “That was,” She shuddered again. “That was incredible.”

Fang sat on the edge of the bed. She licked her lips and smiled at her wife. “I’ve gotta admit, Sunshine. Your voice screaming my name is a hell of a turn on.”

“When I can feel my spine again, I’m hoping to hear you screaming my name.” Lightning said. “Probably shouldn’t hold my breath, though.”

Fang leaned down and kissed Lightning. “Don’t be down on yourself. The beauty of being married as we are is that we have the rest of our lives to learn what each other likes.”

Lightning decided to poke a little fun at her wife. “That’s true. I mean, I have no experience to judge by. What you just did could have been terrible. For all I know you’re horrible in bed.” That earned her an adorable pout.

“I am not horrible in bed.” Fang said, thrusting her bottom lip out.

“Just ask Vanille, right?” Lightning asked. Fang suddenly drew a serious expression and bit her lip, looking away from Lightning. She furrowed her brow. “You two have haven’t you?”

Fang looked at her, pleading. “There’s nothing between us now. We haven’t felt like that for years.”

Lightning gave her a soft titter. “It’s okay, Fang. Vanille is an attractive young girl. You’ve been friends for a long time. I’m sure if I were in your place, curiosity would eventually get the better of me as well.” She shook her head. “Like you said to me, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. There’s no shame in finding a pretty girl pretty.”

“You’re not disappointed with me?” Fang asked.

“No. You said it yourself, you and Vanille aren’t related by blood. You’re just good friends. I’ve always heard that sex between friends can complicate the relationship.”

“We didn’t want to lose what we had.” Fang said. “I love her too much like a sister to go back there.”

Lightning nodded. “Good.” She pulled Fang down and plundered her mouth. “Because you’re married now and I’m the jealous type.” She slid her hand down Fang’s stomach and through the dark curls. The woman was extremely excited. “And I think my hunter deserves a bit of release.”

“Light I,” Her words were cut off as Lightning utilized two fingers immediately. “Oh, god.” She slammed her eyes shut. “Lower.” Fang said, biting her lips. “Ah, gods Light. Right there. Right there.” She clutched the blanket in her fists as Lightning brought her. “Don’t stop, Light. Please don’t stop.”

“I can do this all night.” Lightning said. She enjoyed the sight of her wife in the throes of ecstasy. “Look at me, Fang. I wanna watch you.”

Fang opened her eyes and met those of her wife. “I’m close.” She let out a deep moan. “Gods, I’m close.”

“What do you want?” Lightning asked her.

“Take me, Lightning.” Fang said, her voice shaking. Lightning pressed her palm against Fang as she pushed deeper. “God’s Light.” Her breathing was labored. She began to shudder as the first signs of climax ran through her. “I’m almost…almost…” She threw her head back as she screamed her wife’s name. Lightning gave her one last thrust before her fingers couldn’t move.

Fang collapsed on top of the pink haired woman. She was content to simply lay there. Her body quaking uncontrollably. Fang slowly drifted off to lay beside her wife. “Are you,” She had to swallow past the dryness in her throat. “Are you sure you’ve never done this before?”

“Not with anyone else.” Lightning said, shaking her head.

Fang looked at her, not understanding. “What do you mean, not with anyone else?”

“I’ve gotten myself off before.” Lightning said a touch embarrassed. “Everyone has at one point or another.”

Fang dropped her head back to Lightning’s shoulder. “Well, then whatever you learned doing that translated pretty damn well.”

“How do you say make love in Pulsian?” Lightning asked curiously.

“Hanga aroha.” Fang offered.

Lightning chuckled. “How do you say my name?”

“Uira.” Fang said. “I’m Oerba Yun Niho Rei.”

“So now that I’m married to you, I’m Oerba Yun Uira?” Lightning asked.

“Actually, it’s a little different. Your name, if you want to be complete and technical, and keep in mind you’d only use this during say, tribal negotiations or the like, would be Bodhum Oerba Yun-Farron Uira.”

“That’s a mouthful.” Lightning said, chuckling.

“But most of those who meet you would settle for Lightning Yun-Farron. Or just Lightning. The same things aren’t expected of you as they are me or the rest of the hunters.”

Lightning gave a soft sigh. “Just one more reminder that I’m different and always will be.”

Fang frowned and looked at her. “Hey.” She said, sliding up to look down into her eyes. “None of that, now. Yeah, you’re different. So what?” She kissed her gingerly. “I married you, didn’t I? If I’d wanted normal, I’d have married a Yun, now wouldn’t I?”

“I suppose you’re right.” Lightning said. “I hadn’t thought of that. But that does lead me to another question.”

“What is that?” Fang asked her, again kissing her way down Lightning’s neck and chest.

“You know it’s really hard to concentrate when you’re doing that.”

“Sorry.” Fang said, raising up and resting her head on her hand.

“No, you’re not.” Lightning said, tapping Fang on the nose. “But what about children? It’s not like we can get each other pregnant.”

“Well…” Fang said, shrugging. “No unplanned pregnancies for us.”

“That’s not funny.” Lightning said. “I was being serious.”

“It was a little funny.” Fang said. “But if we’re really set on it, there are plenty of men in the village. And regardless of what Kang said, there are a lot of them that wouldn’t think twice about taking you to the furs for a night.”

“So the option is there?” Lightning asked.

“Yeah, it’s there. Why the worry about children? We’ve just spent our first intimate night together. There’s no rush.”

“I just…it was something that came to mind. I know we’ve got time.” She pulled Fang down and kissed her. “Now where were we?”

Chapter Text

“You’re kidding.” Lightning Farron stared at her sister with her arms crossed. To say that she was displeased was an understatement of gargantuan proportions. “I can’t believe you…”

“Look,” Serah said, mimicking her sister’s stance. “I know you, Claire. You would never have even asked. I told you I wanted you with us and I meant it.”

“But to go behind my back…”

“I had to!” Serah was practically shouting. “You wouldn’t have requested the time off. So I did it for you. Major Amodar told me that had you a hundred and fifty days of leave saved up. You can spend a week with Snow and me.”

Lightning flicked her eyes to the massive blonde man sitting on the sofa. He was wisely keeping his mouth shut watching the pair as they verbally jousted. If he was upset at Lightning’s inclusion on Serah and his plans, he showed no sign of it. Just because he was married to her sister, didn’t mean she had to like him. Truth was, she actually did, in a strange way. Theirs was very much a love/hate relationship. She, in all honesty, did see what Serah saw in him. He was passionate and completely devoted to her. She could tell as much. As much as she hated to admit it, he’d been doing a hell of a job over the course of the past year to provide for Serah as she pursued her dream to be a teacher. It had been something she wanted to do since she was a child.

Snow worked himself to the bone to pay for it. Lightning made extremely good money as a member of the Guardian Corps – especially given her incredibly minimalistic lifestyle – and had offered time and again to help them out financially. Snow busted his ass working construction and spending the off-season as a bouncer for Lebreau’s bar. She respected that he was doing everything he could to make Serah happy.

“Serah, I don’t want to go.” Lightning protested. “I’m not the vacation type, okay?”

“You don’t have to be a particular type to enjoy a cruise, Claire.” Serah returned. “You’re going to come with us and you’re going to have fun.” She narrowed her eyes. “That’s an order, Sergeant.”

Lightning averted her eyes. “Tch.”

“Actually honey, Light’s a Sergeant Major.” Snow offered. Both women glared at him. “Sorry.”

“Stop helping.” Lightning said to him. She turned back to her sister and felt like she was staring at a reflection of herself when she was being particularly stubborn. Serah had on her ‘resolve face’ which meant, at the end of the day, Lightning Farron would be packing to follow her sister and brother-in-law on a cruise. “Dammit,” She said, shaking her head, and turning to head home.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Serah said. “We’re not done.”

“I’m going home.” Lightning said, grasping the doorknob. She looked at her sister. “I’ve gotta pack.”

Serah beamed and threw her arms about Lightning’s shoulders. “Thank you, Claire.”

“Tch.” The woman returned. “Some days I can’t stand you.”

“You love me and you know it,” Serah said, giggling.

           

“I said leave it in the car!” Serah growled at Lightning.

“I’m fully licensed to…” Lightning began to protest.

“I don’t care,” Serah said, tugging the gunblade from Lightning’s hand and tossing it back into the trunk of the car. “You’re not taking your gunblade with you. You can take the knife I gave you for your birthday if you have to have a weapon on you.”

“What if something happens while we’re on the cruise, huh?” Lightning asked. “We could get attacked by a sea monster or pirates or…”

“We’re not gonna get attacked by anything,” Serah said. “Besides, I know you. If you take your gunblade, you’ll spend the next seven days sitting in your cabin field stripping it over and over.”

“You don’t know that.” The response sounded weak, even to her.

“Right.” Serah dragged the word out. “Come on,” She said, taking her sister’s hand and pulling her toward the pier and the massive waiting cruise ship. Snow followed along behind carrying everyone’s bags. He had only a single large duffel for all of his needs. Serah had a massive set of bags – that she had begrudgingly settled on – for the trip.

Lightning was just as minimalistic in her travel as she was in every other aspect of her life. She had one single moderately sized military-grade backpack. When she’d shown up at their house that morning, Serah meticulously went through her bag and dissected everything she’d chosen to take. Gone were the baggy cargo pants and t-shirts. Lightning was left with nothing but a single black strapless cocktail dress and a host of shorts and a pair of bikinis, courtesy of Serah.

As it was, she stood in a pair of baggy board shorts and a tank top. Granted, it wasn’t any more revealing than her Guardian Corps uniform, but she still didn’t care for the ensemble, despite how comfortable it was.

Serah, for her part, was clad in a hot pink bikini with a pale lavender sarong about her waist and a pair of flip-flops. Her pale skin almost glowed in the sunlight.

Snow wore a simple loose t-shirt and a pair of shorts similar to Lightning’s. His thick arms hauled the baggage without any real effort. They moved from the car and joined the throng of people as they boarded the enormous ship.

Unlike her sister, Lightning was so not a social butterfly. This many people crammed into one place just grated on her. She sighed heavily. She couldn’t wait for this week to be over. She stepped aboard, handing the ticket agent her boarding pass.

“I downloaded a floor plan of the ship,” Serah said, smiling at Lightning, ready for her sister to be proud of her preparedness.

Lightning raised an eyebrow. She lifted her phone to show Serah the same map. The younger Farron sister gave her a pout. “I want it known for the record, I do not want to be here. I don’t like boats, I don’t like people and I don’t like the idea of being trapped on a boat with a shit load of people.”

“If you’d just learn to unwind, maybe you’ll find yourself having a little fun,” Serah said, matter of fact. “Maybe there’s someone on the ship you might find something in common with.”

“Yes, then I can have a whirlwind romance and get back to port and be heartbroken that I’ll never see them again.” Lightning said.

“You know what they say, sis. Tis better to have loved and lost than to…” Snow began.

“You know what I say, Snow? Shut the fuck up before I toss your ass over the rail into the water.” Lightning interrupted him.

“I told you it was a bad idea to bring her,” He said quietly to Serah as they made their way to their cabins.

“For once, I actually agree with Lurch, here.” Lightning said.

“Stop it!” Serah snapped. “Why can’t you just…?” She let out a shrieking grumble. “Why can’t you just enjoy something for once?” She shoved the door open to her cabin and shoved Snow in before turning to her sister. “I’m not a little girl, anymore, Claire. I don’t need you keep up the whole ‘take care of my sister’ attitude. I’m married for god’s sake. I think right now, the way the chips are falling I’m becoming the mature one of the two of us. You’re just… go to your room. Do what you want. Snow and I are going to enjoy ourselves while we’re on the ship. If you don’t want to, then don’t. Hide in your room and brood for all I care. I’m done trying.” She then slammed the door.

Lightning stood staring at her sister’s door and felt a wash of guilt. She lowered her eyes and sighed heavily. Slowly, she reached up and knocked on the door.

It was immediately yanked open. “I said go to your…”

Lightning cut her off. “Snow has my bag,” She said, softly.

Serah stormed over to the bed, grabbed the bag and turned, hurling at her sister with enough force to stagger the soldier back across the hall. Serah didn’t say a word, she just slammed the door again.

Lightning could see the tears in her eyes. She dropped her head and turned to her own cabin. She opened her door and looked around. It was small but well appointed and rather cozy. She moved over and set her bag on the bed before taking a seat beside it.

She wanted to be angry at Serah’s response, but she couldn’t. She couldn’t fault the girl one bit. Serah just wanted to spend some time with her. Ever since getting married to Snow, Lightning was never around. She was always working. The Guardian Corps kept her extremely busy.

Or at least, that’s the lie she told herself. If she were to be honest with herself, she chose to become buried in her job. She volunteered to take on more and more responsibility so she didn’t have to face the truth. And the truth was that Serah was right. She didn’t need Lightning looking after her anymore. She’d grown up. Lightning was free to pursue her own happiness, the only problem was, she didn’t know what would make her happy.

Did she enjoy her job? Not really. She wasn’t a fan of paperwork and red tape. Thanks to her new position, she wasn’t in the field as much as she used to be. These days, she was less soldier and more bureaucrat. She spent less time directing troop movements and more time approving them.

Ever since Serah and Snow wed, Lightning had actually been giving thought to leaving Cocoon altogether and making a life for herself on Gran Pulse and joining the Woodlands Observation Battalion. She knew that the group was screaming for volunteers to fill their ranks on the world below. Given what Serah had said, and how Lightning was feeling, maybe this trip would be a good time to give it more serious consideration.

She moved over to the sliding glass door on her room and pushed back the curtain and slid the glass back. A cool summer breeze greeted her. The wind smelled of salt and caused her pink hair to dance lightly. She closed her eyes and just let it wash over her. The deep blast of the ship’s departure horn caused her chest to vibrate. “Damn,” She said, chuckling. She looked down to see the water beginning to churn as the ship pulled away from the dock. She sighed and moved back into her room, closing the door behind her.

She decided that she was going to do what Serah wanted. She was going to make an effort to enjoy herself, starting now. She stepped out of her room and pressed herself against the wall, waiting for all the people to clear the hall. She then stepped over and rapped lightly on her sister’s door. After a few seconds, Serah answered. Her eyes were red and puffy. It was obvious that she’d been crying. “What do you want?” The younger Farron snapped.

Lightning bit her lip. She looked past Serah to see Snow sitting on the bed. Normally, Lightning intimidated the shit out of him. But at the moment, well…suffice it to say, if looks could kill, her head would have exploded. “Can I come in and talk to you for a minute?”

Serah just turned and moved over to sit beside her husband. He wrapped a strong arm around her. She hadn’t exactly invited Lightning in, but she didn’t tell her to go to hell either. Lightning stepped in and closed the door behind her. “Look…” She began. God, I’m terrible at this, she thought to herself. “I’m sorry.” She looked at the two of them. “Both of you. This was supposed to be a romantic week away for you two. And you both invited me to come with you when you didn’t have to.”

Serah wiped the tears away and stared intently at her sister. “Why do you do it to yourself?” She asked. She tried to keep the accusatory edge from her voice, but she could see from her sister’s reaction, she hadn’t entirely succeeded. But she wasn’t sure at the moment, she cared. “It’s like…it’s like you’re afraid.”

Lightning for her part simply nodded. “It’s because I am, Serah.” She stared into her sibling’s blue eyes. “I’m afraid that I don’t know what to do. You were right. You’re not a little girl anymore. I think despite how much I didn’t want you to, you grew up. You’re a woman now. You’ve met a decent guy and started your own family.” She saw the small trace of a smile start on Snow’s lips. Great. I’m never gonna hear the end of this. She said to herself. “You don’t need me anymore.”

Serah furrowed her brow. She gave Snow’s hand a squeeze and rose to her feet, moving over to stand in front of Lightning. “Claire? Just because I’m married, doesn’t mean I don’t need my sister in my life.” She shook her head. “And I didn’t grow up in spite of you. I grew up because of you. When mom got sick, you were the one that had to grow up fast. You gave up your childhood so I could still have mine.” She took Lightning’s hands in hers. “I’m never going to forget that. I said I don’t need you to protect me anymore. But you are still my sister. You’re still a part of my family.”

Lightning listened to her and found herself comforted by the words. “I’m sorry that I…”

“No. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have dragged you onto this trip with us.” Serah said, sadly. “I just wanted you to enjoy yourself. I really didn’t give any thought to what that meant to you.” She lifted her head back up and smiled. It didn’t quite reach her eyes. “You were right. Being stuck on a floating city with a whole slew of strangers isn’t your idea of a good time.”

Lightning sighed. While that was technically true, she was determined to make the best of it. “I don’t know…” She said. “It might not be all bad. My room is pretty nice. I have my own  balcony. That’s pretty neat.”

Serah gave her another smile. And this time, it was all encompassing. “I wanted to make sure you would, at least, have some privacy.”

“We should have dinner tonight.” Lightning said. “There’s something I need to talk to you both about.”

Serah bit her lip and nodded. “Of course,” She said. “We’ll see you in the dining room at seven.”

Lightning returned the nod and turned to the door. “Thanks,” She said. Serah cocked her head. “For thinking of me when this was supposed to be your guys’ vacation.”

“Like she said. You’re part of our family, sis.” Snow said, giving her a reassuring smile.

She gave him a nod and left the room, closing the door lightly behind her.

Lightning stepped out of the elevator clad in her black cocktail dress and a pair of high heel stilettos. She made her way across the Steakhouse dining room toward the table her sister had reserved. She could see Serah and Snow had already been seated. As she looked at her younger sister, she was stricken dumb. She was absolutely rocking the red mini dress. Her hair was trussed up and piled onto the top of her head in rose-colored ringlets. She looked absolutely stunning. Snow, for his part, was clad in a very elegant navy blue silk shirt, black slacks and polished boots. Even he looked good.

The happy couple gave her a smile as she approached the table. Snow rose and pulled her chair out for her, scooting it in as she sat down. She gave him a smile and did her best to relax. Lightning listened as the pair made pleasant small talk. They ordered their meal and received beverages before Serah finally broached the question. “What is it you wanted to talk about? It sounded important.”

Lightning fidgeted with her glass of wine as she thought about how to say what she wanted to say. Finally, after a few seconds, she decided on honesty. “I’m thinking of transferring out of the Guardian Corps.” Both Serah and Snow were stricken speechless. “The Woodlands Observation Battalion has been running expeditions on Pulse. I’m thinking of transferring. It’ll mean moving to Pulse, but…”

“I,” Serah looked at Snow, who seemed completely lost and back to her sister. “I thought you liked the Bodhum Security Regiment.”

“I do, I mean I did, but with my promotion, it’s just been…” She sighed. “It’s boring.” She looked at Serah. “And you said it yourself. You don’t need me hovering over you all the time. You’re right. I need to start living my own life and not trying to bury my nose in yours.”

“But that doesn’t mean you have to leave Cocoon,” Serah said, her voice filled with emotion. “The WOB also works in the Gapra Whitewood, don’t they?”

Lightning sighed. “But they’re not clamoring for volunteers. Not like they are on Pulse. I’ve talked a little about it with Major Amodar and he says that I’d be a sure-fire fit for the duty if I wanted it.”

“Why now?” Snow asked her. It was a pretty intelligent question, all things considered.

Lightning shrugged. “I guess the conversation this afternoon kind of cemented it for me. You two are happy. You’ve got your dream. You live in your own home, you have everything you need, everything you wanted. I’m just…” She shook her head. “I’m just in the way, now.”

“That’s not true!” Serah said, somewhat angrily. “Not at all.”

“Yes, it is.” Lightning said. “I realized that today.”

“How could you…?”

“No, she’s right,” Snow said. Serah turned angry eyes to him, but Lightning looked at him with a nod. “I don’t mean that Light is actually in the way,” he said, trying to placate his agitated wife. “But look at it from her perspective.” He offered. “Light has been looking after not only you but me too for a long time. Just because we’re the same age doesn’t mean I’m not an immature jackass.” That drew a smile from the soldier. “But now that you’re all grown up, she sees how she feels less as protective and more smothering.”

Serah looked back and forth between the pair. “But…” She began. “That’s not how it is.”

“It’s just how I feel,” Lightning said. “I’m sorry Serah, but I’ve gotta get out of Bodhum. I just…I want a chance to see if I can build a life for myself.”

“By leaving me behind?” Serah asked.

“No.” She shook her head. “By going to Gran Pulse and trying to find Claire again.”

“And you can’t do that in Bodhum?” Serah asked.

“It’s what I want to do, Serah.” Lightning said, simply. “It’s a choice that I want to make.”

“It’s not like she’s going to disappear,” Snow said, taking his wife’s hand. “She’s just going to Pulse. She’ll still be able to visit you.”

Serah continued to stare at Lightning. “If we hadn’t had brought you on this trip with us, would you have told me?” She asked, softly. “Or would you have just been gone when we got home?”

Lightning looked at Serah, hurt in her eyes. “That isn’t fair.”

Serah sighed and nodded. “You’re right. I’m sorry. I just…this seems really sudden.”

“It isn’t.” Lightning offered. “The final decision is, but…I’ve been thinking about it for a really long time. Ever since you two got married. Ever since I realized that you two were…”

“I understand,” Serah said, nodding. “If this is what you wanna do, I’ll support you.”

 

Chapter Text

Lightning sighed heavily as she walked along the deck of the cruise liner. The sun was shining, the people about her were having fun. There was a sense of revelry in the air. The cool breeze blowing off of the ocean made the heat more than bearable. A nice mist kissed her pale skin.

Snow walked along behind her, all bronze tanned muscle and smiles. Serah held his hand as she moved along beside him. Both she and Lightning were in matching bikinis. Serah didn’t quite garner as much attention as her slightly taller and more muscular sister, but she was fine with that. She was spoken for, so she didn’t care how much notice she got.

The younger pinkette looked at her husband and nudged him, pointing to Lightning. “She looks thoroughly miserable,” She said, sadly. For two days, the soldier had been on edge. She wasn’t enjoying herself in the least. She mostly stayed in her cabin reading. It was only through the patented ‘Serah Farron pout’ that she was out on the deck for the first time since the trip started.

“She needs to learn how to unwind,” Snow said. He then grinned suddenly. “I got an idea.”

“Oh, I hate it when you smile like that,” Serah said to him.

“Trust me, it’ll be funny,” He said, letting go of Serah’s hand. “Back me up?”

“Not if it results in my sister skinning you and using your tanned hide for chaps.” Serah offered.

“She won’t be that pissed,” Snow said. He bounded up beside Lightning. “Hey, sis.” He gave her a smile. “Nice day, huh?”

“I guess.” She offered, non-committal.

“Definitely a scorcher,” He said, walking along with her.

“Never been a fan of this much sunlight.” Lightning returned.

“It’s the heat,” He said. “Fair skin like yours, makes you burn. Serah’s like that. She’ll lay in the yard sometimes without a bathing suit on…”

“You can stop talking right now.” Lightning cut him off. “I don’t need to hear about you staring at my sister naked.”

“She’s my wife, Light. Better get used to it.”

“Never happen.” The woman said, steadfast.

“You know what you need?” Snow asked her.

“For my sister to find a new husband?” Lightning said.

“You need to cool your engines,” Snow said before shoving the smaller woman from the deck with all his strength.

Time slowed to a crawl. Serah saw Snow turn to push her sister into the water. Her jaw dropped open and her hand flew to her mouth. “Snow!” She shrieked, in complete and utter shock. I’m gonna be a widow if she gets hold of him she thought to herself.

Lightning felt the big man’s hands on her shoulder and was suddenly airborne. She was hurled out into the massive on-deck pool. She had enough time to look down as she descended. What was rushing up at her wasn’t at all what she was expecting. Her face fell directly between a pair of tanned breasts barely kept in check by a small blue bikini.

Time returned to normal. Snow was in motion, running from the deck, snatching Serah’s hand as he rushed past, dragging her along with him. He was laughing up a storm.

Lightning splashed down directly on top of a tall bronze skinned woman dressed in a skimpy blue two-piece that had previously been floating on a personal rubber raft. The pair submerged immediately.

“Bloody hell!” The woman said, struggling to keep from drowning under the weight of the surprisingly heavy soldier.

The pair of them managed to grip onto the edges of the floatation device. Lightning growled, whipping her hair from her face. “I am really sorry about that. My sister’s idiot husband thought it would be funny.” She blinked the chlorinated water out of her eyes and looked to her unfortunate victim.

The woman was likewise pushing her thick raven hair from her face. “’S’alright,” She said in a thick Pulsian accent. “Didn’t figure you did it on purpose.” She also wiped her eyes and looked at Lightning.

The pair stared at each other for several seconds. She’s beautiful Lightning thought to herself.

She’s bloody gorgeous the brunette thought at the same moment. “Name’s Fang.” She offered her hand. “What’s yours?”

“Lightning. Call me Light.” She took the woman’s hand in hers. She immediately noticed  the woman had a solid grip. Her hands were calloused and strong. She had the hands of a fighter. “Look, Fang, I’m really sorry about all of this.”

Fang grinned at her. “I’m not.” She saw Lightning blush. “Anyone ever told you you’re cute when you’re all embarrassed?” She asked.

“Not if they wanted to keep their teeth.” Lightning responded.

“Oh, a tough girl. I like that in a woman.” Fang said, giving her a toothy grin.

“You like a girl that’s about to smack the piss out of you?” Lightning asked her.

“I like a girl that can,” Fang said. She kicked her feet, moving to the edge of the pool. “But you look like you got revenge on your mind.” She easily pulled herself up to the deck and turned, offering her hand. “Know you don’t need it, but let me play the gentleman, yeah?”

Lightning sighed and took her hand. She was shocked when Fang lifted her effortlessly to the deck beside her. “I need to go and make my sister a widow.” Lightning said, wiping the water off with her hands.

“Here.” A cheerful voice called from behind her. She turned to see a girl with rose-orange hair and a bright smile. She was holding a pair of towels, one for each of them.

“Thanks.” Lightning said, taking one of them and drying herself off.

“Thanks, Vanille,” Fang said, taking the other towel from her. “This is Lightning. We just sort of…ran into each other. This is my sister, Vanille.”

Lightning looked between the pair of them. “You two don’t look much alike.”

“We grew up in the same orphanage together on Gran Pulse,” Vanille said. “We’ve been together since I was a baby. Fang here is three years older than me.”

“Where on Gran Pulse did you two live?” Lightning asked, making pleasant conversation as she dried herself.

“We both still live there. We’re just visiting Cocoon for a while. Vanille wanted to know what it was like to go on a cruise, so here we are. We both live in Oerba.”

Lightning looked at her. “I hear it’s beautiful there. It’s on the sea, isn’t it?”

Vanille nodded happily. “In the summer, the sun sets over the water. It’s gorgeous. There are fields around Oerba that bloom year round with different kinds of flowers. It’s absolutely fantastic. You should come and see it sometime.”

“I live in Bodhum.” Lightning said. “You can see the sunset from there, too. I always liked watching it. Helped me relax a lot of the time.” She finished drying and tossed the towel into the bin. “I’m actually gonna be talking to my commanding officer in the Guardian Corps and transferring to the Woodlands Observation Battalion.”

Fang perked up immediately. “They actually have an outpost near Oerba. They operate out of the remains of Teajin’s Tower. That’s only about a few hours from Oerba.” She couldn’t help but smile.

Lightning saw how pleased the news made the woman. “I suppose it would be nice to know I’ve got friends when I get there.”

Fang was suddenly happier than she’d been all trip. “I’d love to show you around, Gran Pulse.” She moved closer and snatched a quick kiss to Lightning’s lips. “Show you all the good spots to be alone, yeah?”

“Is she always this forward?” Lightning asked Vanille.

“Strangely?” The redhead responded. “No.”

“Must just me you then, yeah?” Fang said, giggling. “Let’s go kill your brother.”

 

“She’s gonna kill you, Snow,” Serah said as she paced back and forth in their cabin.

Snow, for his part, lay on the bed with his hands behind his head. “She’s not gonna be that mad. Besides, I made sure to give her someone to talk to. There was a really good lookin’ girl on a floatie. I’m sure the two will get to talkin’…”

Serah looked at him. “My sister isn’t gay, Snow.”

He looked at her. “You’re kidding, right?”

“What?” Serah asked, looking at him. “I know my sister, Snow. She’s not a lesbian.”

“How can you not have…you can’t be serious.” Snow chuckled. “She got drunk and fucked Lebreau, Serah.”

“What!?”

“Remember the New Years Eve party at Lebreau’s?” He asked. Serah gave him a nod. “Remember how hammered she got?”

“She didn’t seem that drunk to me,” Serah said.

“But you remember her drinking, right? You said yourself you’d never seen her drink so much.”

“That and she was downing Jager shots. Claire hates Jagermeister.” Serah said. “I think something was bothering her.”

“She’d been promoted earlier that day. They pulled her out of the field and put her behind a desk.” Snow said.

“That’s right. I remember now. She was really depressed.”

“She got so ripped that she told Lebreau she needed to lay down. So ‘Breau let her sleep it off in her apartment upstairs. She had me and Gadot carry her up and tuck her in. Lebreau said when she closed down and went upstairs, Lightning was in the bathroom puking her guts up.”

“That’s why she hates Jager,” Serah said. “It gets her drunk, but makes her sick shortly after.”

“Lebreau helped her out, cleaned her up and put her back to bed. She was gonna sleep on the sofa, but Lightning told her there was enough room in the bed for two. Apparently one thing led to another and…” Snow shrugged.

Serah was dumbfounded. “I didn’t know Lightning went that way.”

“Truthfully, I wouldn’t have known unless Lebreau told me. She said that Lightning had to have been a lesbian. Because no one eats pussy like that their first time.” He held his hands up. “Her words, not mine.”

“I wonder why Claire never told me.”

“Did she ever really keep it a secret from anyone?” Snow asked. “I mean I’ve never seen her with a boyfriend or a girlfriend, truth be told.”

“Me either. I just assumed…”

There was a sudden pounding on the door. “I know he’s in there. I heard him talking.” Lightning’s voice called out.

“Shit!” Snow said, jumping up and running to the sliding glass door. He opened it quickly and quietly slid it shut.

Serah gave him a minute and opened the door a crack. “Hey, Claire,” She said, smiling. “What’s up?” She was thrown to the side as Lightning and a tall dark haired woman entered the room. Lightning went about searching every nook and cranny.

“Fang.” The tall woman offered her hand. “You must be the sister.”

“Serah.” She took the woman’s hand. “I see you caught my sister at one of her finer moments.”

“Actually, I caught her face with my boobs, but hey. Semantics, yeah?” Fang said.

“I love your accent. Where are you from?” Serah asked.

“Gran Pulse,” Fang said. “Specifically from Oerba.”

“Oh, I’ve always wanted to go there. I hear your Summer Flower Festival is to die for.”

“It’s a lot of fun.” She pointed to Lightning. “She’s gonna be talkin’ to the Corps about transferrin’ to the Woodlands Observation Battalion. You could come and visit her. I’d be happy to show you around.”

“I’d like that,” Serah said, happily. “He’s not here, Light. He knew you were coming.”

“Where’d he go, Serah?” Lightning asked her.

She flicked her eyes to the sliding door. “Couldn’t tell you. I was in the bathroom.”

Lightning rushed to the door. She whipped it open to see him jump across to the balcony outside her room. “Son of a bitch,” She said. “Fang! Hallway!”

“Got ‘im.” The brunette turned and rushed out into the hall. She was near to her door when it burst open. Snow barreled out of the room and took two steps before Fang dove and tackled him to the floor. “Gotcha!” She was shocked when he rose to his feet with her wrapped around him.

He quickly dug his fingers under her armpits, causing her to laugh and release him. He was away in a heartbeat, his long legs carrying him faster than she could recover.

“Son of a bitch fought dirty,” She said as Lightning exited her room. “Fucker tickled me.”

Lightning stood, staring at his broad retreating back. “I’ll get him,” She said, shaking her head. “I need to shower and change. I smell like sweat and chlorine.” She adjusted her breasts. “And this thing doesn’t support for shit.”

“I like the way you look in that. Pink is definitely your color.” Fang said, moving closer to her.

Lightning looked up at her. She threaded her fingers in Fang’s hair and kissed her fiercely. “Kind of partial to blue myself,” She said. “Have dinner with me,” She said after they parted.

“Rather have you for dinner,” Fang said, keeping a hold of her.

“Well, if you’re a good girl, I might let you have me for dessert.” Lightning said to her. She wasn’t sure what it was about Fang that brought out her inner playful, but she was enjoying the hell out of herself.

“But I’m not a good girl. I’m a very bad, bad girl.” Fang said, resting her forehead against Lightning’s.

The pinkette kissed the brunette again. “I think exceptions could be made.” She eased back from the woman. “Meet me here at seven.”

“You got it,” Fang said, shooting in for another quick kiss.

“Damn, you’re fast.” Lightning said.

“You gotta be quick to catching lightning in your hands, yeah?” Fang said, backing away from the door. “I’ll see you tonight, Sunshine.”

Light closed her door and leaned back against it, letting out a breath. “God, she’s addictive. I’m really gonna like Gran Pulse.”

 

Snow looked around the restaurant nervously. He hadn’t seen hide nor hair of Lightning since the incident in the hallway with Fang. “Relax, Snow,” Serah said, smiling. “This is a Sushi restaurant. Claire hates Sushi. She won’t think to look in here.”

“You’re not the one she wants to disembowel with a rusty soup spoon,” He said to her.

“You pushed her into the swimming pool, Snow,” Serah said. “You should just fess up and take your medicine. I’m sure she won’t kill you. She might remove a limb, but as long as she doesn’t remove that limb, I’m okay with it.”

“Thanks a lot,” He said to her. “You sure she won’t come in here?”

Serah looked at him and was about to answer when she stopped. “Well…” She drew the word out. “Oh, she bought a new dress from the boutique downstairs. Red is a good color on her.”

Snow swallowed as a hand fell on each of his shoulders. “Oh, boy,” He said, softly.

Lightning’s face moved very close to his right ear. “Serah let me keep the knife, remember?”

“Listen, sis. I just wanted you to relax is all.” He flicked his eyes to her. “I didn’t mean to…”

“Shh.” Lightning said, interrupting. “You’re gonna pay for that stunt, beach-bum. Not today. Not even while we’re on this trip. But someday, far, far into the future when you’re comfortable and have forgotten all about this, hell is going rain all over your parade.”

“I’d listen to her, big guy.” He heard a thick Pulsian accent in his left ear. “This girl seems like she knows how to carry a grudge.” She pecked his cheek. “And so do I.”

The hands disappeared from his neck. He swallowed again and turned to see Lightning in her red dress and a statuesque brunette in a blue cocktail dress walking out of the restaurant holding hands. “I’m a dead man.”

“Just make sure you give me kids before they kill you,” Serah said. “We can start tonight after dinner.” She looked at him, grinning.

He returned her expression. Suddenly, he wasn’t all that hungry. Not when he had dessert waiting for him across the table.

           

Lightning and Fang found that they weren’t very hungry either. The pair left the restaurant and made their way back to Lightning’s cabin. Fang revealed that she and Vanille were sharing a double and it would have just been weird.

The two collapsed into bed together all tongue, hands and kisses. It had been months for Lightning and nearly as long for Fang. Their expensive dresses ended up on the floor.

As they lay spent upon the mattress, they talked. Fang was a huntress that spent time mostly in the wilds killing game for sport and necessity. The town of Oerba, despite being somewhat modern, still made most of its living off the land. Yes, they had holovids, electricity and even rudimentary telecommunications, but the people still hunted their own game, grew their own crops and fished the ocean. Some clothing could be purchased, but leathers and furs were still the garb of choice.

Lightning found herself envious of the woman. Her life seemed easy by comparison.

“You said you’re a soldier, yeah?” Fang asked her. As Lightning nodded, she smiled. “Little training, I think you’d make a great hunter.”

Lightning knew a compliment when she heard one. “I am getting a little tired of the Military life.”

“Not a lot of structure in my village,” Fang said. “We just live. Whatever life throws at us we take it and move on to the next.”

“Sounds like my kind of life.” Lightning said to her.

“I’d be happy as a clam if you’d welcome me as a part of it.” Fang offered.

“As strange and sudden as this may sound, I don’t think I’ve ever been happier than I am right now.” She looked up at Fang. “Does that make me strange?”

“No. Because I feel the same way.” She kissed the woman again.

           

 

Chapter Text

Lightning stood staring out the window, watching the heavy snow cover everything. A cold shiver ran through her form. Five months, she thought to herself. I’ve been here for five months. She heard the soft padding of feet upon the carpet. Powerful arms snaked about her waist, holding her close. Her hands instinctively fell upon those of her wife.

“Somethin’ on your mind, Sunshine?” Fang asked softly.

Lightning immediately pressed herself back into Fang’s warmth. “Just watching the snow.” She shook her head. “I’ve never seen snow before.”

Fang was surprised by that. “You never had snow on Cocoon?”

“No,” Lightning said. “I mean, I’ve seen it on television and in movies. But never in real life. The Fal’Cie controlled the weather. The worst we’d get was a bit of rain, but never snow.”

“That’s just…” Fang wasn’t sure how to take that. She couldn’t imagine what life on Gran Pulse would be like if they didn’t have seasons. “I don’t know what I would do with weather like that. We rely on the seasons here.”

“It’s really cold,” Lightning said, pulling Fang’s arms tighter.

“I was gonna say you feel pretty frosty, Sunshine.” Fang leaned down and nipped at the side of Lightning’s neck, causing her to chuckle. “I know a way to warm you up.”

“Please tell me it involves building a fire in the woodstove.” Lightning said with a grin. She knew full well what Fang was getting at. “But sadly, it looks like we’re not going to have time for that, either.” She pointed outside. “You sister is here.”

Fang leaned forward and cocked her head to see Vanille trudging through the knee-deep snow, bundled in heavy Gorgonopsid furs and leathers. She climbed the stairs and was about to knock when Fang stepped over and pulled the door open. “Get in here.” She said, tugging the girl into the house before closing the door behind her. The chilly air brought yet another shudder along Lightning’s lithe frame.

“It’s cold out there,” Vanille said as she began peeling layers off. “Gonna be a bad winter from what the Shaman says.” She looked at Lightning with a grin. “Good morning.”

“Good morning, Vanille. Would you like a cup of coffee?” Lightning said as she stepped over to the stove.

“I’d love some.” The perky redhead responded. She sat at the table and crossed her arms. “I’m not interrupting anything, am I?”

“No,” Fang said. She draped her sister’s furs and leathers over the back of the small sofa that rested near the woodstove. “Just.” She added with a smirk.

Vanille sighed. “Sorry.” She said, taking the cup from Lightning. “Thanks.”

Lightning nodded and poured her and Fang both a cup. She dutifully added a bit of cream and honey to Fang’s mug before handing it to her wife. “Thanks, Sunshine,” Fang said, pecking her on the lips. She saw the slight blush in Lightning’s cheeks and couldn’t help but smirk a touch. That Lightning was still a little uncomfortable about public displays of affection was humorous to her. She couldn’t say why, knowing that it was a terrible thing to take pleasure in someone else’s discomfort, especially her wife. But, despite Lightning’s embarrassment, she always reciprocated in kind, regardless of where they were.

Lightning, for her part, understood that not just the Yun, but all Pulsians seemed to have very little in the way of modesty. In the five-plus months she’d been in Oerba, she’d noticed that clothing was very, very minimal. Given the temperatures, she could understand that. When the hot months gave way to cooler temperatures and heavy rains, the clothing didn’t change much. The only true difference was that people began wearing leather open-faced hoods to keep water off their faces and heads. But that was it.

Winter, however, was completely different. Vanille, when she’d approached the apartment, was so bundled that she appeared as little more than a petite bear. If she hadn’t recognized the girl’s whipping fire red locks and rather bouncy gait, she’d have been hard pressed to recognize her. That actually brought a thought to Lightning’s mind. “I just thought of something,” She said, looking at her wife and sister-in-law.

Fang took a sip of her coffee. “What’s that?”

“I don’t have any winter clothes.”

Vanille and Fang looked at each other. Fang turned back to her. “I got plenty of furs and leathers, Sunshine. I can make sure you stay warm enough.”

“No, she’s right,” Vanille said, shaking her head. “She can’t just keep using yours. She should have her own.”

“It would give me something to offer you for The Exchange this year,” Fang said, leaning back in her chair.

Lightning furrowed her brow. “The Exchange? What’s that?”

“I think they call it…” Fang looked to Vanille. “Christmas, yeah?” Vanille nodded. It was an undeniable fact that the younger girl was by far more knowledgeable about life on Cocoon than Fang could ever hope to be.

“Christmas?” Lightning asked. “I didn’t think you celebrated Christmas.”

“We don’t,” Vanille said. “Well, not like you do. I mean, I do, but I just decorate my house with a whole bunch of Cocoonian Christmas stuff because I like the look of it, but Fang here doesn’t. She thinks it’s-,”

“Doesn’t matter what I think,” Fang said, sharply, silencing her sister. “If Light wants to celebrate it, then I will.”

“No, that’s quite alright.” Lightning said, chuckling. “I was never a fan. I mostly took part because of Serah. After mom and dad died, I made sure she had a good Christmas, but I was never really into it.”

“Here we have a big party during the Winter Solstice-,” Vanille began.

“A party in Oerba? Shocker.” Lightning said, grinning over her cup. Since she’d been in the city, there’d been no less than four such gatherings. The first was the night she arrived after being wed to Fang. The second was a rather raucous affair during the Summer Solstice, another came at the Autumn Equinox and no less than three weeks ago celebrating the initial settling of Oerba, rightfully called Settler’s Day. As Vanille had said that first night, the Yun and Dia will use any excuse to throw a party.

“It’s just a thinly veiled excuse to break out the honey wine and roast huge bits of meat over a fire,” Fang said, chuckling.

“Figured.” Lightning said to her. The former soldier learned that she had a rather fond taste for the golden concoction. During Settler’s Day, she ended up getting nearly blacked out drunk. She also learned that she was a very, very romantic and brazen drunk. After the festivities ended, she and Fang fell into bed together and didn’t finally pass out until near dawn. It was a very, very good night.

“That’s why I came,” Vanille said. “The elders need your approval to re-work the lodge. The roof came down last night.”

Fang suddenly frowned. “Are the hunters alright?”

“They’re fine. No one was there when it came down. Sometime after midnight. The fires were cold when it happened.”

Fang breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank the Maker. Tell them I’ll approve whatever they wanna do, yeah? How many laborers do they need to get it done by Solstice?”

“I don’t know,” Vanille said, shaking her head. “I didn’t get a chance to see the damage. They think they can get it done, though.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?” Lightning asked.

Vanille looked at her. “What do you mean?”

“If I can get in contact with my superiors, I can see about getting someone from the Guardian Corps of Engineers. I know there might be some tension, but it’ll at least get your – our – lodge back up and running in a shorter amount of time. I’m sure Primarch Raines would welcome the opportunity to further shore up the peace.” She snorted. “Not to mention take the opportunity to further secure his position as the man that brought peace to our worlds.”

“You did that,” Fang said, somewhat bitterly. “Not him.”

Lightning saw the anger in Fang’s expression and nodded. “I know. But I’m a soldier, he’s a politician. His job is to be the face of the republic. Mine is to defend it.”

Fang bit her lip. “Is that really the only reason you chose to-,”

“Stop.” Lightning said, her voice carrying a warning. “Stop right now.” She set her coffee down and walked over to her wife. She roughly pulled Fang to her feet and gripped her sari, pulling her down and plundering the huntress’ mouth with her tongue. Fang’s muscular arms wrapped around her wife and held her close. Her hands squeezed Lightning’s bottom firmly. It was a badly kept secret that the former soldier liked a little pain with her pleasure.

Vanille sighed and finished her coffee. She silently rose to her feet and secured her leather and furs about her petite form. She had work to do. “I’ll just leave the two of you alone.”

Fang and Lightning both pulled away, somewhat embarrassed. Fang for ignoring her sister, who’d traveled across Oerba in the snow to see her and Lightning for such an overt display of avarice in front of her sister-in-law. “Sorry, Vanille. You don’t have to go.” Fang said, sheepishly.

The girl smiled and shook her head. “No, it’s alright. I have to talk with the elders and give them the go ahead, anyway.” She looked at Lightning. “I think getting some of your people to help out would be wonderful. It would show some rather significant solidarity.”

Lightning nodded. “I’ll try to get in touch with my commanding officer.”

Vanille flicked her eyes to Fang, then back to Lightning. “I’m sure it’ll keep for the time being.” With that, she turned and pulled the door open, stepped outside and closed it.

Lightning furrowed her brow and turned to her wife. “What did she mean, it’ll keep?”

Fang immediately swept Lightning up into her arms and took her over to the bed, receiving a light squeak from the woman. She then lay her down and veritably pounced on her.

Lightning’s eyes closed as Fang’s tongue invaded her mouth. Her hands caressed the dark haired huntress’ form, reveling in the taut muscle found there. She began pulling at the loose sari that was draped around her lover. Fang sat up, growling. She roughly removed the blue garment, sending it to the floor in a careless heap. As she was doing so, Lightning feverishly tugged at her own clothing.

In no time the pair were nude of form. Fang straddled Lightning’s lap, leaning down to kiss her wife. Again, Lightning’s hands were all over Fang’s back and bottom. She could feel the pounding heat coming off of her wife. It thrilled her to know just how excited she made the woman. She felt Fang’s hand glide down her toned stomach and move to the apex of her legs. She parted them, letting her spouse have unfettered access. Her body shuddered at the oh-so-welcome intrusion. “Oh, Maker,” She let out sharply.

Fang could feel her wife’s eagerness. She worked her hand slowly, drawing out the sensation. “You like that, Sunshine?” She asked her. Lightning bit her lip and nodded. “Don’t do that,” Fang said, leaning down to kiss the pink-haired woman’s lips. “Don’t be so shy. Don’t stifle it. You don’t have to be quiet here in our home.”

It was what Fang told her every time. Though Lightning would give into Fang whenever she asked, even if she wasn’t necessarily in the mood, she still had a knee-jerk reaction to be quiet. There was no one to hear them, no one to even care if they were heard. But that didn’t stop the habit that Lightning had of biting her lip to remain silent. And every single time, Fang would tell her to stop, to be as vocal as she liked.

Lightning returned Fang’s kiss. The taller woman adjusted her fingers a touch, causing Lightning to cry out. “Fang, right there…” Her eyes closed tighter as she started shaking.

“No. Open your eyes,” Fang said, happily. “I want you to look at me. I wanna see your eyes when you come.”

Lightning did as she was instructed. Her breathing was hitching in her throat. Her heart was thundering in her chest. She stared into Fang’s impossible green eyes. They’re like sparkling emeralds, she thought absently. She moaned loudly as Fang caressed her deep. “I’m gonna…” Her stomach began to clench as the slowly building climax came rushing forward. “Fang I’m close.”

“I know,” Fang said, smiling. In the past five months, Fang had learned Lightning’s body in and out. She knew just how the girl liked to be touched. In nothing flat, she could work her magic and get Lightning in the mood and bring her to the brink in seconds, or be sensual and casual, stretching it out for hours, driving Lightning absolutely insane all night long. She also knew, invariably that once she gave Lightning the release she needed, the petite soldier would respond in kind.

Lightning wasn’t thinking about that, however. At present, she wasn’t thinking of anything but the hand at her sex and the expert care her wife was taking to bring her to orgasm. Fang, at the last minute, added a third finger and that was all it took. Eyes wide, Lightning’s body tightened. She shuddered uncontrollably as she stared at her wife. The moan upon her lips became a scream of fiery passion.

Fang couldn’t help but smile. Slowly, she withdrew her hand and brought her fingers to her mouth. She absolutely loved the way Lightning tasted. She calmly watched as her love ceased shaking. Her breathing evened. “I’m glad I can-,”

“I love you, Fang.” Lightning said, her voice shaking.

A deafening silence filled the room. The only sound was the snow whipping against the windows. Fang stared at Lightning in complete and utter shock. Ever since the day Lightning came to Gran Pulse, Fang had hoped to hear those words. One hundred and eighty-four days, she thought to herself. A part of her had genuinely believed that Lightning had only agreed to this union because of what it represented for their two peoples. Their marriage was a promise of peace. Fang had thought it nothing more than that. She had thought that Lightning only surrendered herself to Fang because that was what she was expected to do.

But with those simple words, Fang’s doubt melted to nothing. “You…?” Her throat was immediately dry as a bone. She swallowed and tried again to speak. “You love me?”

Slowly, Lightning nodded. “I do. With all my heart.”

Fang’s heart soared. She couldn’t help but smile. She leaned down and pressed her lips to those of her wife. “You love me.” She kissed her again. “You said you love me!” Lightning chuckled at the woman’s giddiness. Fang bounced from the bed, happily. “Lightning Farron said she loves me!” She ran to the front door and yanked it open, ignoring the loud shriek of “Fang!” From the bed. “LIGHTNING SAID SHE LOVES ME!” She screamed to the people on the street. Many of them looked at her and giggled, immediately chatting conspiratorially. She quickly felt a blanket drape over her shoulders, before she was pulled back inside and the door slam shut.

“You’re naked and it’s freezing out there.” Lightning said to her, though she was still smiling.

Fang threw the blanket off and wrapped her arms around Lightning’s waist, lifting her up effortlessly and spinning her around the room. “You love me!”

“I just hope someday I’ll make you happy enough to say it to me.” Lightning said, softly. She was elated that her love meant so much to Fang.

Fang’s excitement was immediately gone. She set Lightning down, suddenly looking hurt. “I have said it to you, Lightning.” She eased back from the woman.

Lightning bit her lip and slowly shook her head. “No Fang. You haven’t.” She was desperately hoping that it wouldn’t turn into an argument, but at the same time she wanted, to be honest. In the past five months, Fang hadn’t once said that she loved her. They’d hinted, but it had never been said outright. Lightning had just been the first to voice it.

Fang for her part, thought back. Surely she’d said so at least once. But as she thought… she realized that Lightning was right. She wanted to say it. There were times that she’d meant to say it. But she just never did. She suddenly understood why. Lightning seemed as if she would be uncomfortable with Fang saying so to her. It was as if Fang proclaiming her love for Lightning would somehow be the death knell of her old life. Once Fang said she loved her, it would be the end of everything that she knew. Fang wouldn’t do that to her. She couldn’t live with herself if she caused Lightning that much pain.

But now… “I love you more than life, Lightning Farron.”

Lightning smiled brightly. “Lightning Yun-Farron.” She said, pulling Fang in closer. “Get it right.”

Fang kissed her passionately. “Yes, ma’am.” 

Chapter Text

Serah sat at the table in the gardens, listening to the birds singing in the trees. The sun had just crested the horizon and bathed the courtyard in a delicate golden light. She pulled at the buttered honey biscuit and lightly popped a piece of it into her mouth. She reached out and took hold of the goblet with the intention of taking a sip of the fruit juice. She frowned when she saw it empty.

“Would you like me to get you more, your grace?” Her handmaiden asked, in her cheerful accented tones.

“Yes, Vanille. Thank you.” Serah responded. The fire-haired girl took the goblet and retreated to the kitchens to fetch more for her. Serah watched her go and sighed heavily. Etro’s fire, she is a vision, she thought warmly. The perky red-haired Pulsian had served as her handmaiden for nearly two years and was a godsend. She honestly knew very little of the girl other than her elder sister – in spirit more than by blood – recently began working the stables, but nothing beyond that. She was staring intently as Vanille came back out carrying the full goblet in her tiny hands.

“Here you are, your grace.” She offered, setting the cup on the table. She then backed away and stood with her hands behind her back, once again waiting to be of service.

Serah sipped her juice and set the cup back down. “Would you do me another service, Vanille?” She asked the girl.

“Of course, your grace,” Vanille responded without hesitation.

“Gather another goblet and fill it with juice, please. And fetch another plate as well.”

“Yes, your grace.” Vanille quickly did as she was asked. “What would you wish done with them?”

Serah motioned to the chair. “Set a place there.” She looked at Vanille with a smile. “I would be most happy if you would dine with me.”

Vanille was shocked beyond reason. Never had she even heard of the royal family dining with the help. She stared at the Crown Princess with wide eyes. “Are you sure, your grace?” She immediately bit her lip. “I am sorry, my lady. I did not mean to question-,”

Serah smiled. “It is alright, Vanille.” She said, cutting her off. “I know it is an unusual request.” She again motioned to the chair. “Please?”

Vanille set the plate and the goblet down and pulled the chair out, taking a seat. Serah rose to her feet and scooted it in for the redhead. She then retook her own seat. She could tell Vanille was nervous as could be. “You don’t have to be awkward, Vanille. You know me more intimately than anyone in this keep.”

“Yes, your grace.” She said, not sure what to do.

Serah chuckled lightly. “The point of dining is eating, Vanille.” She indicated the biscuits, the slices of gorgonopsid meat and the selection of cheeses. “Eat.”

Vanille nodded and took a biscuit from the plate. She pulled it apart and placed a piece of the meat within and added a slice of the cheese. “Thank you, your grace.” She said before taking a ginger bite.

Serah took another bite of her own biscuit and watched the petite Pulsian eat. “Do you like being my handmaiden?” She asked. She then sighed. “I’m sorry, that was an incredibly weighted question.”

Vanille looked at her curiously, seemingly unsure as to what she was getting at. “I enjoy being able to serve you, your grace, if that is what you were asking.”

“I feel horrible that I’d never had the inclination to ask this, but…” Serah thought about how best to pose the question and just decided to go for broke. “How did you come to be my handmaiden? I never thought much on it, but from what I remember, your appointment was rather sudden.”

“I am Dia,” Vanille said, simply.

When Serah didn’t receive any further information, she raised an eyebrow. “I’m sorry, my Pulsian history isn’t quite what it should be. What does that signify?” She honestly felt bad for not knowing what she felt she probably should have.

Vanille gave her a disarming smile. “Dia is my clan and you are Farron. It is an ancient and long held truth.”

“What truth?” Serah asked.

“You had just come of age when I was appointed to be your handmaiden and personal bodyguard,” Vanille said to her.

Serah frowned. “I know nothing of this.”

“I am sorry if you were caught unaware by the news, your grace. It is an ancient law. When a princess of the royal family comes of age, a warrior of the Dia clan is to take their place at your side in any capacity that the princess deems necessary. Our primary objective, however, is to ensure the safety of the princess at all costs. Including giving our lives if the need arises.”

“How come my parents never told me?” Serah asked. “How come Claire never told me?” She only addressed her sister by her given name when she was angry with her. It was one of the only things that Lightning found truly infuriating. Serah knew this but didn’t care. It was a sister’s prerogative to irritate her siblings.

“I am not sure, your grace. I do not propose to speak for the late King and Queen, but I can only assume they would tell you when you were older. You were very young when they were killed.” Vanille shrugged. “They might not have felt you were ready.”

Serah leaned back in her chair and thought about this latest revelation. It was very much like her parents to tell her only what they felt she needed to know. Lightning, being three years her senior, was always given information before she was. It was one of the few things that galled her to no end. “Why did you never tell me what your purpose was?”

Vanille seemed surprised by the question. “My apologies, your grace. I thought you knew. You never questioned my presence. I only assumed you knew my duties and what I might be called to do.”

“Well, I didn’t,” Serah said, frustrated.

Vanille lowered her eyes and nodded. “Sorry, your grace.”

Serah sighed and reached out, taking the girl’s hand. “It isn’t your fault, Vanille. It’s just a bit of a shock. I simply thought you a servant like any other. To know that you’re willing to sacrifice your life for me is…” She wasn’t really sure how to feel about that. She liked Vanille. The girl, over the past two years, had become more than just a handmaiden. She’d been a friend, a confidante. For months, Serah had come to notice Vanille’s beauty as well as her bright personality. She’d desperately wanted to push for more, but she under no circumstances wanted Vanille to feel obligated to return her feelings. She wanted it to be mutual. She’d just never worked up the courage to take the next step.

But to know that Vanille would willingly throw her life away to see that Serah lived another day was unspeakable to her. With that said, however, she could do nothing about it. As Vanille said, she was Dia. It was her clan’s honor to serve the royal family. Serah would, however, be spending a great deal more time in the library, learning of the Dia. If the beautiful warrior was duty bound to die for her, she could at the very least know why.

Vanille watched the conflict in Serah’s eyes. “Please do not be upset, your grace.” She said, squeezing the young Princess’ hand. “Despite how it may appear, I am very good at what I do.”

Serah suddenly realized that she’d never once seen Vanille practice any sort of violence whatsoever. She hadn’t even seen the girl train with blade or spear. “You say you are a warrior. Why do I never see you practice?”

“It would be unseemly for me to do so when I should be attending you, your grace. I keep my skills sharp when time permits.” She gave a warm smile. “You do sleep in rather late.”

Serah chuckled. “Would you be upset if I asked you to demonstrate for me?”

“Not at all, your grace,” Vanille said. She pushed her chair back and rose to her feet.

“Guard,” Serah said, motioning to the man stationed at the door. Clad as he was in fine chain mail, carrying a spear and a wide shield, he cut a rather imposing figure. “Come forth.” She looked to Vanille. “What is your weapon of choice?”

The girl shook her head. “It doesn’t matter.” She said, confidently. She reached down and lifted the short sharp knife that rested beside the cutlets of meat. “This will do.”

“A paring knife?” The guardsman asked. “Are you daft, girl?” He immediately looked to Serah. “Sorry, your grace.”

“That is alright, soldier.” She said to him. “A demonstration and nothing more, agreed?” She looked at the pair.

“Agreed,” Vanille said, nodding.

The guard got into a fighting stance. “Agreed.”

“Begin,” Serah called. The soldier used his spear in a rapid lunge. The point whistled as it struck.

Vanille moved like a dancer. The man carried his shield in his left hand. So she spun to that side, arcing away from his spear and stopping behind him. The blade of her knife rested against the bottom of his chin. She said nothing.

In that heartbeat, the fight was over. Serah was incredibly impressed. Vanille was indeed good at what she did. “That’s enough.” She said, nodding.

The girl stepped back, staring up at the man. She kept her mouth shut, not wanting to offend or anger him.

He looked at her in disbelief and back to Serah. “Will there be anything else, your grace?” It was obvious he was irritated at being shown up by someone of Vanille’s years. He was one of those that had survived the slaughter of six years ago. He’d trained hard and long to be as he was.

“No, that is all. Thank you.” Serah said to him. As he walked away, Serah stayed him. “Guardsman?” He turned to regard her. “There is no shame here. I don’t look down on you for what transpired here.”

“Permission to speak, your grace?” He asked her. She gave a nod. “I failed. Six years ago, I couldn’t save your parents.” He looked to Vanille. “And now again. With your permission, your grace…I would like to resign from the guard.”

Serah sighed heavily. “You are not to blame-,”

“With respect your grace, that’s a load of Behemoth shit. I’m a soldier of the Farron family. I am to blame for what happened that day. All of those that stood sentinel in the coliseum and was unable to stop it are to blame. Just as were those that fired the arrows and swung the blades. Since that day I have spent every free moment training, hoping – praying – that I would once again face those that attacked us.” He pointed to Vanille. “Only to be bested by a child.” He gave Vanille a nod. “No offense meant, my lady.”

“Then it seems you have a problem, guardsman.” A sharp voice called from behind him. “It isn’t Serah’s choice whether or not you can give up your station.” Everyone turned to see Lightning standing at the entrance to the gardens. “It is mine.”

“Yes, your grace.” He said, sadly.

“You feel like you failed me and Serah because my parents died?” She stepped up to him and stared into his eyes.

“I do, my Queen.”

“And you think quitting, running away is the best way to redress that failure?” She asked, crossing her arms. She could see her words struck a chord in him. “That’s what cowards do. That’s not what a soldier of House Farron does.” She cocked her head. “Which are you?”

“I am a soldier of House Farron, my Queen.” He said, sternly.

“Good. That’s what I thought you’d say.” She paused a moment. “You have a daughter, yes?” She asked. “Young Noemi?”

His eyes suddenly grew wide. “How did you-?” He swallowed, biting back the rest of the question. “That’s correct your grace.”

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but she just recently had her sixth name day, is that right?”

He nodded, overjoyed that the Queen would know of his daughter, let alone her name and her age. “She did, your grace.”

“Take the day.” Lightning said to him. “Take her to the market and find a suitable gift for her, compliments of the royal family. Spare no expense, is that understood?”

He was ecstatic. “Yes, your grace.” He said, happily. “Thank you, your grace.”

“Go. I need to speak with my sister. Know that when you return, we shall discuss how you can best atone for your supposed failure.”

“Thank you, your grace.” He turned and trotted from the courtyard.

Serah watched the display and was heartened that, despite the cold exterior and no-nonsense demeanor she carried, Lightning could and often did have a kind heart. She smiled and suddenly furrowed her brow as she took in what the elder woman was wearing. She had on a pair of knee high leather boots with spurs about the heel. Her pants were thick behemoth hide leather as was her jerkin. Her gauntlets came to her elbow. Serah hadn’t seen her sister dressed in such a fashion since before their parents died. It was the garb Lightning always wore when she was riding Odin, her prized Wyvern. “Are you riding today?” She asked, curiously.

“I’m taking Odin up with Fang.” Lightning said, moving over and taking a biscuit from the plate. She tore a large piece off and stuffed it into her mouth. “I’ll be gone for a couple of hours.” She looked at Vanille. “She’s your sister, isn’t she?”

Vanille nodded. “She is your grace. We grew up in Oerba together.”

“After I get back, I’d like to sit down and speak with you about her.”

“May I ask why?” Vanille asked her. “Did she do something wrong?”

“Yeah, she did.” Lightning said. “And it was just about the best thing she could have done.” She finished the biscuit and wiped her hands on her pants. “But I just want to know more about her.” She smiled at the pair. “It’ll also give you a chance to ask some questions about Serah.” She saw both girls blush deeply. “That’s what I thought.” She took a piece of meat and tossed it into her mouth. “Rather have you being intimate with Vanille here than that buffoon Villiers.”

“Snow isn’t that bad.” Serah snapped. “He’s handsome.”

“He’s a god damn Drover.” Lightning shot back. “You deserve better than a cattle rancher, Serah.” She patted Vanille’s shoulder. “At least Vanille has something approaching a noble upbringing.”

“Go away,” Serah said, shooing her sister. “Go play with your lizard.”

Lightning couldn’t help but chuckle. “I’ll see you when I get back.”

 

Fang settled the harness on Odin’s powerful back. “Here you go, big guy.” She said, strapping it in place. He grunted and rattled deep in his chest. “Oh, come on. You’re master is gonna be riding you for the first time in six years. Don’t give her any lip.” She ran a comforting hand along the side of his neck. “Let out a breath for me.” The dragon exhaled, allowing her to cinch up the last of the buckles. “Atta boy.” She said, offering him a bundle of the spicy greens. “There you go.” She took his reins and led him out into the courtyard. She stepped back and held her arms out. “Open up.” Odin stretched out his wings and shook them to loosen up. Fang smiled and nodded. “There we are.” She again patted his neck. “Such a pretty boy you are.”

She left him alone to ready her own mount. Bahamut sat upon the ground, his head tucked into the crook of his wing. She stroked his neck and head, gently coaxing him awake. “Come on, fella. Rise and shine. Time to fly.” The beast growled and chattered in protest. “Oh, hush up. You know you like to get into the air.” He rose to his feet and started a shake at his head that traveled all the way down his body to his tail. “You’re gonna have a friend in the air with you today.” She took hold of his head and looked into his eyes. “Can I get a promise that you’ll play nice?” He gave her a soft mewling huff. She smiled and touched her forehead to his. “That’s what I like to hear.”

She’d just finished getting his harness on when Lightning came into the stables. “Are they ready?”

Fang nodded. “They are, your grace.” She took Bahamut’s reins. “Odin is outside getting a bit of sun. I think he’s excited to have you back in the saddle.”

Lightning smiled as she followed along behind the woman and her violet-hued Wyvern. She looked over at Odin as he sat preening in the sunlight. She approached him and rested a hand on the side of his neck. He immediately let out a sharp whistle and began nuzzling her hair and neck eagerly. She laughed and pet him as he affectionately nipped at her. “I missed you, too, boy.” He growled and rattled, tapping the side of the saddle with his snout. Lightning looked over at Fang. “You ready to fly?”

“I am.” The woman returned. “And thank you, your grace. I’m indebted to you for allowing me the honor of riding with you.”

“I’m just glad I finally found someone that I can ride with.” She hopped gracefully onto the back of the dragon. “Let’s fly.” She snapped the reins and kicked her heels into the dragon’s flanks. She knew from experience that the spurs weren’t in the least bit painful. Odin’s hide was thick enough to deflect full sword strikes. The tiny spines on her boot heels were barely even felt.

Odin unfurled his wings and gave a mighty flap, lifting himself and his lithe master into the air with little effort.

Fang followed suit and rose into the sky alongside. As they soared, she couldn’t help but see the unfettered joy that Lightning exhibited. The Queen rarely if ever smiled with such happiness. Fang couldn’t help but think that it was a sight that should be seen far more often than it was. Gods, she’s beautiful, she said to herself.

Lightning wasn’t thinking about any of that. She’d truly missed this. As Odin rolled and dipped, she held on and just let herself feel the world rushing past. Nothing and no one could touch her in the air. The kingdom of Bodhum lay spread out below her. It all seemed so small from up here. The problems of the crown were so far away.

In the skies, she wasn’t the Queen. She was Lightning Farron, Dragon Rider.

And that was all she truly ever wished to be. She looked back at Fang. The woman was right there, matching her move for move. Her raven hair whipped along behind her. Her own garb was much like Lightning’s. For one brief moment, Lightning could see Fang as her equal. That realization startled her, but it was welcome. Right here, right now, she doesn’t care that I’m the Queen. We’re kindred spirits in the air, she turned her attention back forward. “As it should be.” She said, happily.

Chapter Text

Lightning gathered several garments out of her closet and placed them into the saddlebag. “It’s open.” She offered to the soft knock on her heavy wooden chamber door.

Serah pushed it open and stepped in, closing it softly behind her. “I received word from Jihl that you’re traveling north to Paddra.” The girl said, moving over to sit on her elder sister’s bed.

Lightning gave a nod. “That’s right. I’m traveling up to the livestock market.”

Serah furrowed her brow. “What for?”

“We have only five wyverns. If I am to successfully build an aerial regiment, then we are going to need more. And we are going to need them battle trained. Aside from Odin, none of those we have are fit for combat.”

“You look as if you are traveling light.” Serah offered, inspecting Lightning’s bags.

“I wish to make swift time.” Lightning said. “I’ve had two of our finest Chocobos readied.”

“Just two? You’re not taking an honor guard?”

Lightning shook her head. “I am traveling with Fang.” She moved over and pulled her crossbow and sword. “You forget that I’m the best marksman and swordsman in the kingdom. I can look after myself.”

Serah bit her lip and stared at her sister as she lay her weapons down beside her bag. “As loathe as I am to bring it up, I feel it bears questioning. Are you sure you can trust Fang?”

Lightning stared at her sister a moment. “Why do you ask?”

“She’s a Yun, Claire. Not so long ago, our family was at war with them.”

“It’s been almost a hundred years, Serah.” Lightning said. “There hasn’t been bloodshed between Bodhum and Oerba for decades.”

“And you’re sure she isn’t holding a grudge?” Serah pressed.

“No, I’m not sure at all.” Lightning returned. “But trust can’t be built if no one bothers to lay a foundation.”

“Just be careful,” Serah said, pulling her sister in for a tight hug. “And promise you’ll come back to me.”

“Of course.” Lightning said to her. She gathered everything and made her way down through the castle to the stables. “Good morning, Fang.” She said as she caught sight of the brunette.

“Good morning, your grace.” Fang offered back with a smile. Where Lightning was clad in light chain armor and leather, Fang wore the traditional garb of her people. Soft dark leather breeches that stopped at just above her knees, a dark leather brassiere and a bright blue sari made up the entirety of the ensemble.

Lightning made it to the Yun’s eyes and could see them raking over her form just as she was staring at Fang. She blushed lightly and went about securing her saddlebags. She noted the small dagger that Fang wore on her belt and bit her lip. She then gave a nod. “Fang?”

“Yes, your grace?” The warrior asked her.

“This is going to sound like a very strange question but I feel it within my rights to ask.” She stared into Fang’s eyes. “Can I trust you? When out there, beyond the walls of Bodhum, will I be able to count on you?”

Fang thought about the question. Of course, you can, your grace, her mouth desperately wished to say. And it was indeed the truth. She would give her life for Lightning. Over the past few weeks, the girl had become more than just her Queen. She’d become Fang’s friend. Something that, at present, Fang was in desperately short supply of. But Lightning wanted an honest answer. So Fang was going to give her one. “No, your grace.” She saw Lightning’s jaw tighten. “Let me explain, my lady. You can trust me, but you can’t trust what’ll happen to me out there. I’m human, same as you. I can die, same as you. You can’t trust that I won’t. The world beyond the walls is full of dangers. Such is the world of Gran Pulse. You only know, deep down what you can do. You only know what you can handle.” She stepped forward to Lightning and took a chance. She held the slighter girl’s hands in her own, threading her fingers through those of her Queen. “But know this now. I’ll fight at your back and by your side until my time is done. I won’t betray you, I won’t hurt you and I’ll go to my grave if it meant saving your life.” She gave her a soft smile. “That answer your question?”

Lightning stared into impossible green eyes. “It does.” She offered in return. “Come. I have something for you.” She held Fang’s hands a moment longer then turned and headed back into the castle.

Curious, Fang fell in step behind her. She couldn’t help but glance down at the warrior queen's swaying hips.

A few moments later, Lightning approached a large ornately carved pair of doors deep in the heart of the keep. Fang had never been in the room before. She had no idea what it even held. Those of her station weren’t permitted this far in. She watched as Lightning took hold of the large metal hanger on the door and pulled. The wood creaked as it slowly opened.

She immediately moved to help, tugging alongside her liege. Lightning gave her an appreciative nod. She took a torch from the sconce on the wall and began inside the room, Fang on her heels. “What is this place?” Fang asked as she glanced around.

“It’s no great secret that my family has been warriors since the founding of the kingdom.” Lightning began.

“Every Yun knows the history of the Farron family,” Fang said to her. “Since the time of Oerba Yun Kain, we’ve been taught about you.”

“Just as every child in the kingdom is educated on the feats and history of the Yun.” Lightning said. “Know thy enemy.” Fang gave a curt nod. It was a philosophy shared by many. “There’s a lot of bad blood between our peoples, Fang.” Lightning stopped and turned to regard her. “In moments like this, I wish it wasn’t so.”

“I know, your grace. Your great grandfather made good strides. All of the Yun respect him, even now for what he’d done.” Fang admitted.

Lightning turned and continued walking. “A trend I would see continued.” She began motioning around. “This is my family’s trophy room. An eyesore as far as I’m concerned, but I suppose it is necessary for historical significance if nothing else.”

Fang gazed about, surprised. Back in Oerba, the walls of the Hunter’s Lodge were decked much the same. The most impressive of kills abounded. She also remembered, with a rather significant amount of pride that several of those mounted trophies were hers. She could see everything present had a name below it. She stopped and stepped over to a large intricately forged sword. She recognized the blade. “This belonged to Paddra Ballad Caius.”

Lightning moved up beside her. “Seven years ago.” She said, softly.

Fang looked at her and then to the placard beneath it. “This was you?”

Lightning nodded. “He and a few of his followers attacked our caravan.” Her eyes glossed over. “He nearly killed my mother. I attacked him and killed him. I had no idea who he was at the time. It wasn’t until I tried to sell the blade that I learned he was a war chief.”

“About twenty or so years ago, the Ballad clan went to war with the Dia and the Yun. It didn’t end well for them. They’d pretty much been reduced to brigands and cutthroats ever since. Caius was a good leader. A good man, but hard times force a man to make hard choices.” Fang sighed and shook her head. “You did what you had to do.”

“This isn’t what I wanted to show you.” Lightning said. “Over here.” She moved to the other side of the room. “Vanille tells me you favored the lance in your old life.”

“I did, your grace,” Fang said. “I was one of the few in my village that did.”

“What happened to your old lance, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“When I came to the palace, I wasn’t allowed weapons,” Fang said to her. “I don’t mind. It’s not like I need a lance in the stables.” She gave Lightning a smile.

The slighter woman could tell it was forced. “Well, if you’re going to be traveling with me, you’re going to need something other than a filleting blade.” She said, pointing to Fang’s belt. She reached the pedestal she sought.

Fang stared at the weapon, mouth agape. “That’s…” She was stricken speechless.

“Oerba Yun Kain’s lance.” Lightning said. She reached out and took hold of it. “It’s been in this room for centuries.” She looked it over. “It’s exceptionally well made. The construction and forging techniques put even our most skilled smiths to shame.” She turned to Fang. She offered the glistening crimson weapon to her. “I want you to have it.”

Fang stood staring at it and slowly lifted her eyes to Lightning. “I can’t-,”

“You can.” Lightning said, pushing it toward her. “You’re not just a stable girl anymore, Fang. As the captain of my elite Dragon Guard, you need a weapon fitting your station. The lance of your clan’s founding patriarch seems a perfect choice.”

Fang, with trembling hands, took it from her queen. “I…I don’t know what to say.”

Lightning stepped back and crossed her arms. “Show me.”

Fang looked at her, confused. “Your grace?”

“Show me what you can do. Vanille told me you were one of, if not the premiere hunter in the entirety of Oerba.” She nodded to the lance. “Show me.”

Fang blew out a breath and held the lance, getting used to its weight. She released the blades on the ends and moved it about, sussing out its balance. It had been months since she’d held such a weapon in her hands…but her body remembered. Slowly, then with increasing speed, Fang began swinging the lance in her hands. The serrated edges whistled as they cut through the air. Fang’s heart thundered in her chest as she spun and moved, letting the lance whip about her. In a deft maneuver, she twisted her hands, letting the lance pull apart, forming the intricate blade three-piece-rod configuration.

Lightning watched in awe as the huntress flowed through her elaborate motions one after another. She’d never seen such fluidity. She could fight with nearly any weapon under the sun. But even she had to give credit where credit was due. Fang was phenomenal with the lance.

Finally, the brunette huntress stilled, breathing heavily. She held the lance in her hands and looked up to Lightning. “Are you sure?” She asked.

Lightning gave her a nod. “I think you deserve it. And that lance deserves to be in hands that will appreciate it.”

“You do me a great honor, your grace,” Fang said, taking a knee.

“Get up, Fang.” Lightning said to her. “You no longer need to bow in front of me.”

“You are the Queen, your grace. Protocol demands-,” Fang began.

Lightning touched her finger softly to Fang’s lips. “The Queen makes protocol. I’ll not have a bodyguard that is constantly bowing before the lady she serves.” She smiled as Fang looked at her with wide eyes.

“Y-your bodyguard?”

“How will you see threats if you’re looking at the floor and not at those around us?” Lightning said to her.

Fang shook her head and backed away from Lightning. “I-I’m not worthy. I’m not of noble birth. Only those of noble birth can be a member of the royal guard.”

Lightning lifted an eyebrow. “Didn’t I just say that the Queen makes protocol?” She lifted her head and walked proudly past Fang. “I decide who is to protect me and who is not.” She stopped and looked at Fang. “Unless you wish to defy the Queen.”

“No, your grace. Not at all.” Fang said, still in shock.

“Good. Now come along. We have a long way to travel yet.” Lightning left the room with Fang in tow.

The pair made the stables in short order. The stable hands had their Chocobo ready and waiting. Lightning leapt gracefully into the saddle upon her golden-plumed mount. Fang, after securing her newly acquired lance, likewise took her position atop a honey colored stud of the same breed. The pair moved out of the stables, issuing a nod to the pair of girls that had gotten the steeds ready. The Chocobo chittered and crowed as they went. Fang knew both of the young women well, having worked with them both over the past year.

They moved around the large mason and wood structure, beyond the training yard for the Chocobo and out to the royal courtyard. Lightning frowned when she saw a rather large host of soldiers, headed by Cid Raines, Captain of the Royal Guard spread out in a semi-circle before her. All of them were armed to the teeth. “Captain.” She said, curtly. “I didn’t expect you to see me off.” Her tone alluded to the fact that not only was it not expected, but it was also not wanted.

“Your grace.” He said, bowing to her. “Permission to speak freely?” He flicked his eyes to Fang and back.

Lightning knew full well that there was absolutely no love lost between Cid and Fang. To the best of her knowledge, the pair had never interacted overmuch, but when the Yun were at war with Bodhum, the Raines family stood firmly side by side with the Farron family and suffered far greater losses than any of the great houses. Now, all that remained of the once great family was a few errant diluted half-children. Many unabashedly fathered by Cid himself. Given that, she knew that Cid’s hatreds ran deep. And as much as she wanted to fault him for his anger, she couldn’t. All his family had sacrificed for the kingdom, for Lightning to be riding with no escort other than a Yun hunter was frankly, insulting to the man.

But the kingdom of Bodhum was changing. And she, as its current matriarch, would see those changes upheld. The Yun were no longer enemies of the kingdom. Peace had been sued for almost eighty years ago and had been accepted on both sides. Yes, there were those that protested and still do, but the cries of intolerance lessened by the day. Here, in the royal palace, they were nigh non-existent. Or so she’d thought. “Granted.” She finally said to him.

“I understand that it is not my place to question you, my Queen,” He began diplomatically.

“On the contrary, Captain.” Lightning responded. “In matters of war,” She put specific emphasis on the word. “Your counsel is valued above all.”

Cid didn’t miss the not so subtle reminder of his station. “Your grace.” He nodded, accepting the appraisal of his role. “But be that as it may, I do not feel this wise.” He said, pointing to Fang. “Traveling abroad with no escort save this sav-,”

“Watch yourself, Captain.” Lightning admonished. She knew that despite appearances, the collected tribes of Gran Pulse, not just the Yun, but all of the indigenous peoples chose a simpler way. They chose not to live in large reinforced cities and towering metropolises, but as nomads, forming only the most basic of settlements. Yes, they had a few bastions of civilization such as Teajin’s Tower, Oerba, and Paddra, but largely they chose to be nomadic. It was simply their way. But they were not savages. And it galled her when they were referred to as such.

Cid knew this and bit his lip, cutting the word off. “Taking only this Yun with you as protection seems rather unwise.”

“I do need anyone to protect me, Cid.” Lightning snapped. “You of all people should know that. Or have you forgotten?”

Cid couldn’t hide his sneer. His thoughts went back to the day Lightning, in a fit of rage attacked the Captain of the Guard and nearly gutted him. Her father had deemed that she should be wed to him. Lightning protested and told her father in no uncertain terms that she would kill Cid where he stood if she was forced to be married to him. Her father doubted that she could carry out such a threat. In seconds, Cid was on his back, disarmed and staring up at Lightning’s rage filled eyes with a rather gruesome scar across his cheek and his blood dripping from her blade. Lightning was only sixteen years of age at the time. That was ten years ago. Both she and Cid knew full well that her skills had only increased since then. Her father, wisely, never broached the subject again. “No, my Queen. I have not forgotten.” He let out a breath. “I do not doubt your skills, your grace. It is this Yun that I do not trust.”

“The war has been over for eighty years, Captain,” Fang said, her voice trying desperately to stay civil. “Our people no longer have a reason to fight each other.”

Cid eyed her dangerously. “Bodhum has a long memory.” There was no mistaking the threat in his tone. “And we’ve ancient grudges aplenty.”

Fang was done with the intimidation game. “So do we.” She shot back.

“That is enough.” Lightning said. “Fang, back off.”

“Yes, your grace.” The huntress said, easing her Chocobo back a step and quieting herself. She clicked in the back of her throat and patted the beast’s neck to calm it.

Lightning looked directly at Cid. “Captain Raines. I appreciate your concern. You are a trust and valued member of my guard. And I had planned on waiting until I return to make the decree official, but I suppose now is as good a time as any. I have decided that Fang will be my personal bodyguard. I have given her Kain’s Lance to mark the occasion.”

“I don’t think that's,” He began.

Lightning cut him off. “Furthermore, she will from this point on, be addressed by her title Kaitiaki Fang.” Cid frowned in confusion, but Fang snapped her eyes to Lightning in surprise. “She is worthy of your respect, Captain. Gran Pulse offers much. As much as we would like to think it otherwise, Bodhum is a young nation in a very old world. And I would not see the history of this world ground beneath our mailed boots.”

Cid knew, at that moment, he’d lost. He did not like, for one second, that his queen was going to be alone with the Yun huntress, but he understood that his concerns, while appreciated, would go unheeded. “As you wish, your grace.” He looked at Fang. “If any harm comes to her, your corpse had better be growing cold.”

Fang understood the threat for what it was. But she also knew that as roundabout as it seemed, Cid was bidding her good luck in her new role. “I’ll guard her with my life, Captain Raines.”

“See that you do, Yun,” Cid said, sternly. “I will expect and accept nothing less.” He stepped aside, motioning his men to do likewise.

Lightning wanted to admonish him for the threat, but as she looked at Fang and received a subtle shake of her head, she decided against it. It probably went lengths to making Cid feel better and it told Fang in no uncertain terms that eyes were upon her. It would make her cautious and make her take her role as serious as was possible. She nodded to her Captain and urged her mount forward.

Soon they were beyond the walls of the Bodhum proper and into the wilds of Gran Pulse. It was a long journey, but she was looking forward to it. The sun was beaming and the warm spring winds were kicking up from the south. It was a nice day. And as she looked back at her companion, receiving a bright dimpled smile in return, her spirits soared.

Chapter Text

Serah pushed her way into the dimly lit cantina and looked about. She had only a brief description to go on. Sazh, her long time friend and mentor had told her about this place. Nar Shaddaa was the place to come to find those that valued credits over morality.

She needed a pilot. Preferably someone that was willing to put in long term. For three years, she’d been searching for the last member of her family she had left. Since the Republic fell and gave rise to the Galactic Empire, and the Emperor declared Jedi enemies of the state, she hadn’t seen hide or hair of her sister. She’d compiled every lead and scrap of information she’d found. So consumed was she in her search, that she hardly noticed Snow, her once fiancé had been growing increasingly upset with her lack of attention to their life and relationship. A few weeks ago, he’d argued that she was more interested in finding her sister than she was in him. The memory of the last argument they’d had flew across her mind as she scoured the bar for her target.

 

“If Lightning had wanted you to find her, she’d have told you where she was.”

“She can’t exactly advertise it, Snow. She’s a Jedi Knight, for god’s sake. In case you aren’t up on current events, she’s an enemy of the Empire. She’s out there hiding. She’s scared, alone and thinks the galaxy has turned their backs on her. I have to find her.” She shot back.

“How do you know she’s even still alive?” Snow growled at her.

“Because I know,” Serah responded. “She’s my sister and I would know if she were dead.”

He scoffed at that. “You don’t know, Serah. You hope. And that hope is going to get you hurt, killed or worse.” He took her hands. “Look at me, Serah. I’m right here. I’m with you now. If Lightning really cared, she would be here too. She’s braver than anyone knows. She wouldn’t let anything stop her from seeing you.”

Serah knew that part of his statement was indeed true. Lightning would come to see her at least once before she disappeared. But she also knew that there was one thing that would stop her sister from seeking her out. If there was even a hint of danger following her to Serah’s doorstep, she would avoid seeing her at all costs. Lightning would take many risks with her own life, but she would never, in a million years, risk Serah’s. And with how hard the Imperial forces had been hunting down the Jedi, Lightning more likely as not, never got the chance to say goodbye. She told him as much.

“Tch.” He dropped her hands and stepped back from her. “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” He offered angrily. “I love you, but I’m not gonna take a backseat to this.” He turned and made for the door of their apartment.

“If you can’t support me, Snow…” Serah shook her head. “Then I don’t need you in my life.”

“Well…” He said, looking at her one final time. “Then I guess that answers that, doesn’t it?”

She pulled her jacket on and lifted the pack she’d prepared. “I guess so.”

He left the apartment the pair had shared ever since moving to Coruscant. For almost five years, they’d made a life together here.

Lightning, upon being granted the title of Jedi Knight, had insisted that Serah and Snow both move to the capital city to stay near her.

Lightning had always given Snow a hard time about wanting to marry Serah, but in the end, she’d given her blessing. Snow was a rather accomplished Pod Racer, made a good living and didn’t leech off of the Farron family fortune. That went a long way with Lightning.

Serah was understandably upset. Lightning had put her own life on hold for Serah. Everything she had, everything she was, she owed to her sister. Lightning was the only family she had left. Snow just couldn’t understand that. That was when she wrote him off. She needed help, not criticism. When he left, she really didn’t lose any sleep over it.

 

Sazh, upon dropping her off, told her of a woman he’d met a year or so ago. “She’s the best pilot I’ve ever seen. She also doesn’t care what you want her to do, as long as she gets paid.”

Serah knew that Sazh had helped as much as he could, but he had a son waiting for him back on Coruscant and didn’t wanna be away too long. She thanked him and left to continue her search. The room was filled with aliens both recognizable and not. The band played a jaunty number while a Twi’Lek and Togruta dancer did their best to convince everyone in the bar that they were more than just professional acquaintances.

She moved further into the room, her eyes scanning the crowd. She pushed her pink hair from her eyes and brushed the handle of her blaster, taking comfort in the feel of it. She circled around the far side of the bar and finally found who’d she been looking for.

Of her target, she could say this. She was gorgeous. Her long black hair hung in a careless wash down her shoulders and back. Her bright emerald eyes watched the pair of girls with rapt interest. Her full lips were in a soft smile as she leaned back in her chair. Her sandaled feet rested on the table and her sleeveless black top showed her muscular arms, crossed as they were across her chest. She flicked her eyes to the tattoo upon her left shoulder. She was, however, a little taken aback by the blue sari that was draped over the woman’s shoulder and about her waist. She was sure it meant something, but she wasn’t sure what. She also noticed, with a touch of wry humor that the woman had a long red lance near her.

With a nod, she moved closer to table. “Excuse me,” She said, trying to be heard over the music. The woman looked up at her, taking her entire form in with a sweep. “I’m a friend of Sazh Katzroy. My name is Serah Farron.”

She looked Serah up and down before pushing a chair out with her foot. “You know Sazh, huh?” She said in a thickly accented voice.

Serah nodded as she took a seat. “I’ve known him since I was a little girl. He served in the Republic with my father before my parents were killed.”

“He’s a good guy. Any friend of his is a friend of mine. Name’s Fang, by the way.” She folded her hands behind her head. “You obviously came to find me for a reason.”

“I need your help. Sazh said you’re one the best pilots he’s ever seen. That’s what I need.”

“My ship’s for hire if you need it. What’s the job?” Fang asked.

“It’s possibly long term.” Serah began. “I’m looking for my sister.”

“She kidnapped or something?” Fang asked her.

Serah blushed. “Or something.” She said, sheepish.

Fang smirked. “I’m willing to fly you around, but it’s gonna cost extra if I’ve gotta mount a rescue.”

Serah had thought of this. Money wasn’t an object. She was extremely wealthy. In truth, she could have purchased her own ship. The problem was that she didn’t know the first thing about how to pilot it. Lightning was the pilot of the family. She’d been taught to shoot and how to fight. But sadly, she’d never learned how to fly a ship. She was more than capable of taking care of herself, but that was about as far as it went. “I can pay you as much as it takes for as long as it takes.”

Fang smiled. “Ten thousand to start. We’ll work on the rest as we go.”

Serah nodded. In truth, it was less than she thought. “That’s fair.” She offered her hand to Fang.

She took it, smiling. “No time like the present.” She rose to her feet, finishing her drink and tossing a few credits onto the table. She gave one last look at the dancing girls then let out a breath. “Ready when you are.” She offered to the girl.

Serah returned the smile and likewise stood. She noticed right away that Fang veritably towered over her. She followed along behind the woman. The pair made the docking level, bypassing ships of all shapes and sizes. Serah’s heart dropped as she saw a pair of clone troopers moving through the bay as if they were searching for something. “Damn.” She said under her breath.

Fang looked back at her and followed her line of sight to the soldiers. “Friends of yours?” She asked.

“Not exactly,” Serah said, lowering her head and moving up beside Fang, doing her best to put the brunette between her and the pair. She breathed a sigh of relief as they passed by the troopers.

“Hey!” One of them snapped. “You! With the pink hair!”

Serah cursed and picked up her pace. “We need to get out of here.”

“You got Imperial trouble?” Fang asked, keeping up with her client. “I don’t wanna be in the middle of nothin’ that’ll get me killed.”

“Just get me off this planet. I’ll pay you whatever it takes.”

“Stop!” The soldier shouted. “By order of the Galactic Empire, you’re ordered to halt immediately!”

“Come on,” Fang said, breaking into a run. “My ship’s just up here.”

Serah didn’t need any further prompting. The women were both sprinting toward Fang’s craft. Serah was heartened to see the form of a YT-2400 sitting before them. She knew the ships had a reputation among smugglers and drifters for a very good reason. They were tough, dependable, and if Fang’s was anything to go by, armed to the teeth.

Serah’s heart then jumped into her throat when she heard the soldier’s plea for backup behind her. She slid to a stop and spun, pulling her blaster from her hip. She squeezed off two shots, each bolt taking the armored officers through the head.

Fang gripped her arm and pulled her along. “Congratulations. You just caused both of us to become fugitives of the Empire.” She said, harshly. Serah stumbled into the ship behind Fang. The taller woman stopped beside a KT model astromech droid. “Bhakti! We refueled?” The droid whistled and beep at her. “Good. Get engines fired up, yeah?” She turned to Serah. “Come on!”

Serah entered the bridge and took the seat beside Fang. She watched as the woman’s fingers danced across the console, flipping toggles and tapping buttons. She had no idea what most of them did and she knew that now wasn’t the time to ask. Fang finished her pre launch operations and reached forward, gripping the throttle. “Come on, Bahamut. Time to fly.” She said, pulling the handle back.

The ship responded without hesitation. The bay immediately streaked past the windows as the freighter blasted away and out into the sky.

No sooner than they were free of the enclosure, did they start taking fire. “Dammit!” Fang snapped. She checked the sensors. “We’ve got two fighters on our asses.”

“Can you outrun them?” Serah asked her as she began strapping in.

“Not in the atmosphere, I can’t,” Fang said, shaking her head. “Those are ARC-170’s. One thousand and fifty kph in the atmosphere. I can only do eight hundred and fifty.” She gripped the control yoke and pulled it back.

Serah held on for dear life as Fang twisted her ship this way and that. She kept her eyes on the display as the pair of fighters tried desperately to get weapons lock. “Can you outfly them?” Serah asked her.

Fang simply smirked and let out a chuckle. “In my sleep.” She added. “Come and get me, boys.”

The assault craft were nimble and able to tuck and roll just as well as the freighter. Serah furrowed her brow as Fang cut the ship’s speed. “What are you doing?” She asked, curiously.

“You ever flown a ship before?” Fang asked her.

“No.” Serah returned.

“Then shut up, yeah?” Fang shot back. As soon as the ships closed up, she tapped the firing stud of her control yoke. The turbo lasers on the aft of the ship flashed, punching holes into the wings and fuselages of the fighters. They both detonated and began raining debris onto the surface of Nar Shaddaa. “And that’s how it’s done,” Fang said, proudly. She pushed it back to full throttle and pulled the stick back, heading up into the embracing black of space.

Serah let out a breath that she wasn’t aware she was holding. They broke free of the atmosphere, weaving in and out of the flight lanes, dodging approaching and departing traffic.

“Gonna need a course, Sunshine,” Fang said as they made their way.

“Cato Neimoidia,” Serah said. “That’s where the last transmission my sister sent came from.”

“How long ago was that?” Fang asked her.

Serah sighed heavily. “Two years.”

Fang nodded. “Slim chance she’ll still be there, yeah?” She typed a set of coordinates into the navigation computer.

Serah furrowed her brow. “Why are you taking us to Ord Mantell?”

“Given how much trouble the both of us are in, we’re gonna need help,” Fang said, leaning back in the seat. “My sister is there. She runs the starship graveyard. Given that I’ve got a bit of a reputation since the Republic died, the Empire took over and everything went to hell, it’s only a matter of time before they start knockin’ on her door to find me.”

Serah sighed and rubbed her face in her hands. “I’m sorry for all of this. I didn’t expect any of this.”

“Well, droppin’ a pair of troopers in full view of the holocams in the docking bay didn’t help,” Fang said with a chuckle. “That was some fancy shootin’ by the way. Where’d you learn to pop like that?”

“My sister,” Serah said. “She taught me how to shoot and how to fight.” She began fiddling with the seam of her glove. “She gave up a lot for me. She did her best to make sure I had a life, a future.”

“Well, we got a few hours,” Fang said, leaning back and putting her feet up on the console. “Why don’t you tell me what happened to her? Why are you lookin’ for her?”

Serah looked at Fang and bit her lip, contemplating what to tell her. “She’s…” She closed her eyes and steadied her breathing. “She’s a Jedi.”

Fang’s jaw tensed. “Then she’s already dead.” She said, sternly. “You’re wasting your and my time by trying to find her.”

Serah furrowed her brow. “You don’t know Lightning like I do.”

Fang’s eyes dilated. “Wait a minute. Did you say Lightning?” She asked. “Lightning Farron?”

“That’s my sister’s name. You know her?”

Fang laughed out loud. “There isn’t a smuggler in the galaxy that doesn’t know the name, Lightning Farron.”

“Why?” Serah asked. She’d never heard anything of her sister’s exploits after joining the order.

“Let’s just say your sister had a way of sniffing out people like us,” Fang said. “No less than a dozen worlds have had their major syndicates toppled because of her. A better undercover operative, you’re not likely to find.”

“So you know that she could still be alive.” Serah pressed.

“Probably so,” Fang said. “Hell, I could be Lightning and you wouldn’t even know it.” She cocked her head. “You really don’t know what your sister did for the Jedi Order, do you?”

Serah shook her head. “No. She never talked about her assignments and her missions.”

“Mostly, with the Jedi, it’s all about giving everything up that you’re afraid to lose. No friends, no family, no love. Bunch of Dewback shit if you ask me. But the stories say Lightning never thought that way. She held onto what she thought most dear. Because of that, the Jedi Council gave her a special role; Counter Intelligence. She had a knack for getting close and tearing governments and organized crime cartels apart from within. I can’t tell you how many of my fellow smugglers are currently rotting in Imperial prisons because of her.”

Serah listened to the woman and was shocked. She knew Lightning was good at what she did, but she never believed her sister was so gifted. Given that Lightning, a few years ago actually turned down the offer to become a member of the council, she really shouldn’t be surprised. “So do you think she was able to keep clear of the soldiers looking for her?”

“I’m sure of it. She can disappear in plain sight. Hell, she could be living right under the Empire’s noses on Coruscant and they wouldn’t even know it.”

Knowing that made Serah feel worlds better. To know that she wasn’t alone in her belief that her sister was alive and well was a relief beyond measure. “I just wanna see her again. It’s been over three years.”

Fang looked at her. “Just be prepared. I might be completely off my rocker. The Empire is pretty far reaching. If she threw herself into exile, they still could have found her. And even if they haven’t, three years is a long time. Who knows how batty she is by now.”

Serah rested her hands in her lap. “That’s a chance I’m willing to take.”

“As long as the money’s right, I’ll see you all the way through this,” Fang said to her.

“I’ll give all the money I have and more to see my sister again,” Serah said.

“Music to my ears.” Fang offered, leaning back and relaxing in her seat.