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In Too Deep

Chapter Text

Brushing out the creases in her uniform with her hands, Lieutenant Claire Farron took a deep, nervous breath before opening the door to her superior's office. Her superior, Captain Amodar was sitting behind his desk with a displeased expression plastered over his large and usually jovial face. His moustache twitched as he made eye contact with her.

"Sit down Farron, there's something I need to discuss with you."

It was at this point that Claire noticed they were not alone. Two other individuals were in the room sitting across from the captain, impeccably dressed in their white uniforms.

"Farron I'd like you to meet special agents Cid Raines and Jihl Nabaat from the PSICOM Division." The pinkette's heart leapt into her throat. She had been making applications to join the special investigative team of PSICOM for the last three years, working overtime to the detriment of her relationship with her sister. Could all this hard work have finally paid off? The captain knew how much progression in her career meant to her, Claire then wondered why he carried a sour look on his face.

Amodar cleared his throat before continuing, the agents not saying anything to the lieutenant beyond a basic but cool professional greeting. "Farron, Cid and Jihl have come here to request your secondment to an undercover assignment in Eden through the organised crimes special unit." Her dream job, it was all too good to be true. She cautiously looked over at the two agents, impassive in their appearance. Jihl looked almost bored with the proceedings and handed over a classified folder for Claire to look at. "Raines, if you would." She drawled at her partner as she gestured for him to take over.

"Of course. I'm not certain how well up to date your knowledge of Eden's underworld is considering you're all the way out here in Bodhum Farron."

The pinkette bristled internally but refused to let it show. She decided to take the professional approach with her response. "Up until approximately a year ago there were three major crime families battling it out for control over the territory, involved in just about everything illegal you can book a person for from underground gambling, trafficking, theft, murder.. A newcomer on the gang scene by the name of NORA which stands for No Obligations, Rules or Authority began targeting the families until an all-out war hit the streets of Eden. While NORA has disappeared altogether, in their wake they severely crippled the families, leaving room for other gangs from outside territories such as Nautilus and Luxerion to make their way in."

Jihl adjusted her glasses with a smirk on your face. "You do your homework ahead of schedule I see, Farron."

Claire shrugged in response. "I had to write a tactical assessment of the ganglands as part of one of my applications to join PSICOM ma'am."

Cid nodded and flipped through the paperwork. "NORA has indeed disappeared, with the death or incarceration of key members, and their leader known as Titan missing; presumably in hiding. However, we have reason to suspect that a small contingent is still operative despite most of the living members being in prison. We need to know how they are communicating, and if they are in contact with Titan."

He paused in his briefing, looking over at the captain as if requesting permission to continue.

"This is where you come in. We're going to put you into general population at the Gallies as a prisoner transfer, and let you get amongst them. Nobody you've put away is at this prison, we've made sure of it so that nobody will recognise you. If there's anyone still likely communicating with the outside it will be this member. Goes by the name of Yun Fang. We will need you to get close to her and find out what they're up to."

Yun Fang. Claire was familiar with the name. No family to speak of, save for a step sister whose identity is not known, she was the loose cannon of NORA, rising quickly through the ranks in the gang hierarchy due to her ruthlessness and reckless nature. She cared little for collateral damage, and she probably had more personality disorders than a deck had cards.

Fang was found as a brawler in illegal pit fighting and was recruited by Titan to serve as the muscle. She was one of the few who was caught alive earlier in the year and incarcerated for the rest of her natural life. Unlike her comrade, Gadot Tsu, not enough evidence could be pinned to put her on death row, so she will rot in the prison system teeming with her rivals.

Claire had to pause her line of thinking as something struck her as odd. "Sir, while I am certainly grateful for the opportunity, I must ask something. I've been making applications to join the investigative team for over three years now… what was it that finally landed me here?"

Jihl sighed and took out a cigarette from a pocket in her jacket. "Don't overanalyse it too much Farron. Yun has a weakness for… beautiful women. So take it as a compliment and take the assignment."

Claire paled with cold rage seeping through her veins as the two agents stood up and saluted the captain. "We'll leave you to it then, Farron you'll need to report to HQ at dawn on Monday. We will be making preparations until then." They both turned on their heel almost in complete sync and left the office, slamming the door unceremoniously behind them.

Amodar immediately started on his subordinate before she blew. "Now Farron, please just take a breath."

"Are you fucking KIDDING ME." She growled, fists balling until nails bit her palms.


Amodar reached into his desk and pulled out a bottle of whiskey and two glasses. He had barely slid it in front of her before she had grabbed it and downed in a single gulp, letting the burn of the alcohol override her senses for a moment.

"Get a hold of yourself Lieutenant, for all our sakes. Please, Claire," The Captain calmed his voice in the hopes she would follow suit, "I know. They're assholes, especially Nabaat for verbally backhanding you like that. This is more than just your looks as far as I'm concerned, so ignore that arrogant bitch. They're about to throw you into the foxhole and you're a rabbit that needs to get some fangs in a hurry. You take out the last of the NORA gang and you can consider it an all access pass to PSICOM."

Claire had to reluctantly concede the point. However the opportunity was presented, it was an opportunity regardless. "Well Captain, let's see just how much trouble this pretty face of mine can get in."

Claire was slightly relieved at the knowledge that she wouldn't be going in alone. Her handler, a jovial man by the name of Rygdea would be going in as a guard to keep an eye on things. As they waited for the prison transport to arrive, the lieutenant fidgeted in her allocated prison garb, reading through the dossier for her new identity.

"Rygdea, if I may speak freely.." She cautiously asked the relaxed-looking man. He stretched on the bench and laughed quietly.

"Please Farron. I ain't my boss you can talk to me however you like."

"It's just… This profile I'm supposed to adopt," She started, unsure of how to proceed, eventually deciding honesty was the best policy. "It's likely going to get me killed."

"Just how do you figure that Lieutenant Farron?" Agent Raines stepped into view, startling them both. His dark hair fell over his eyes, obscuring his piercing gaze as he contemplated the young pinkette before him. "And please, speak your mind as candidly as you need to."

Claire gulped and looked over the notes. "From the profiling I have done of Yun Fang from the application submissions over the years, she would see through this in an instant. If she is the… womanizer she is claimed to be, she needs to seek me out, not the other way around. Not to mention the name… I don't exactly look like an Ashe do I?"

Silence bore down on the trio as Cid considered her objections. "In the end Farron, you'll be mostly in there on your own. Rygdea is there as a backup to extract you in case it all goes to hell. You've been a decorated officer of the GC for long enough, and I will defer to your judgement. You'll be the one getting up close and personal with the Pulsian after all. If something doesn't feel right… Improvise. I don't care how you get the intel, just that you get it and don't get killed in the process."

Claire nodded in relief. "Thank you, sir."

The prison transport pulled up with a screech of the air brakes, and Claire took a deep breath. This was it. "Remember Farron, part of the undercover work is that you're going to have to stomach a few unpleasantries and turn your police instincts off for the rest. Just remind yourself you're doing this for the greater good, and you'll be fine." Cid called out behind her.

"Good luck Claire," Rygdea said as he patted her on the back in sympathy. "I'll be seeing you at the Gallies."

Claire had to admit she had never seen the inside of a prison before and her first time, of course, had to be on the wrong side of the bars. As she made her way through the halls with the other prison transfers that had been picked up along the way, she was very aware of the number of eyes on them. They were being sized up for anything from recruits to punching bags to sexual relief. She was put in a cell just across and slightly down from the Yun, who at that point was nowhere to be found.

What meagre possessions she was allowed to bring with her she arranged in the small cupboard she was allocated in the cell. A couple of books, socks and a hand-stitched symbol of Etro. Anything more solid could be used as a weapon and was confiscated, so Claire had done a crude stitching with her kit at home on an old piece of material to help sell the persona she was adopting. The easiest way to blend was to not act out of character, so the profile she had developed for herself deviated significantly from the useless tripe they had put on paper for her, but not too far from how she would normally behave anyway.

This was a hunt. Their approach was too obvious and out in the open. She needed to be patient, and bide her time.

They had put her in a cell with an existing prisoner, a timid quiet girl by the name of Alyssa Zaidelle. By Farron's request, they had been partnered up because out of all the prisoners she could be paired with as a cellmate, this one was the least likely to ask questions. The small petite blonde played with the curls of her hair, a nervous twitch that Claire observed straight away as the girl smiled sadly at her.

"H-hi, my name's Alyssa." The girl stammered. Claire merely nodded in greeting with an air of indifference and otherwise said nothing. The blonde was determined though, the Lieutenant would give her that. "You're… A. Palazzo yes? W-what's the A stand for?"

"Aranea. Just call me Palazzo." She responded curtly.

"O-o-okay." The stuttering was bound to try Farron's patience very quickly. "There will be other prisoners coming around l-looking to recruit later on… if you… stay out of it you'll be safer. I'm j-just trying to keep my head down until m-my sentence is up and I am f-f-free."

Whooping and hollering could be heard further down the cell block as a bunch of women started cheering. One of them could be heard yelling out amongst the din. "Hey, Oerba! Looks like we've got some fresh meat in again!" Oerba. The name rang meaning in Claire's head for some reason.

Yun Fang. Oerba's where she's from... Claire thought as she scanned the hallway looking for someone matching the mug shot from her files but found nobody resembling the Pulsian. That didn't stop a chill from shivering down her spine when she heard a hard accent ring out from one of the nearby cells, echoing through the hall.

"Like I give a fuck Paddra, unless there's some serious talent amongst them I couldn't give two shits!"

The accent was drawling, a harsh and grating sound to Claire's ears but at the same time the natural huskiness was definitely appealing. She dismissed the thoughts and settled down to read.

Keeping her nose in a book was the easiest way for her to be both left alone and observe her surroundings through her peripherals. It was with this method that she was able to first get a glimpse of the infamous Yun Fang while out in the yard for their daily recreationals the following morning. Claire sat along the back fence, reading away as she took in her surroundings. It was then that she saw her "target" with her own eyes for the first time.

She was over sitting on a table chatting with a number of prisoners, occasionally waving to the guards and making lewd gestures as she got their attention. Immature… Farron thought to herself disdainfully. However, she had done enough research into the Pulsian criminal to know that despite her jovial and casual nature, she was not one to be taken lightly. She was known for her verbal games and mischievous charm that served to get under people's skin or disarm them with her flirtatious banter. There was nothing cheeky about her gaze despite her behaviour, however; every glance calculating and contemplating. Even Claire had to take a moment to check to make sure her heart was still beating when the Pulsian's staring about the yard fell on her for the first time. A piercing colour; deep dark rings at the edges of her irises that reminded the lieutenant of a forest, and a bright centre of a much more intense green, reminiscent of clouds before a hail storm. Farron saw the woman nod in her direction, clearly asking around about her.

Thus far her plan was going better than expected; with the fact that she had said nothing at all was starting to draw attention to her from the right people. Yun Fang was a highly intelligent predator, and enigmas drew her interest like a ceratosaur to the water's edge.

A note was dropped on the ground by a passing guard, and Farron looked up to see Rygdea wink and continue on his rounds. With all the nonchalant indifference she could muster, she put her book on the ground over the note for a moment, before picking it back up with the paper in tow.

Nabaat's arranged for an introduction between yourself and Yun shortly. Again, trust your gut and use your instincts. Assess the situation as it happens and act accordingly. - Cid

Farron's stomach dropped. She didn't trust Jihl as far as she could throw her, and whatever this plan entailed, it was more likely to get her shanked than in Yun's good graces.

The whistle sounded from one of the guards that it was time to head in, and Claire sighed. She was secretly enjoying the fact her assignment allowed for the extra reading time, giving her the space to catch up on the books her sister had bought her for her birthday last year. As she headed in, her mind wandered back to the note she had been given, and what her daily schedule was that could facilitate such an alleged meeting.

"Oh for Etro's sake you have to be kidding me." Claire stopped in her tracked and pinched the bridge of her nose as realisation dawned on her. Next was the midday meal, which no criminal in their right mind would attempt there to disrupt their little-received food which only left one place that made sense for them to spring an ambush on her.

They were going to meet in the shower block.

"This is no time to be self-conscious Farron…" The pinkette muttered to herself as she undressed in the cubicle. There were no doors, no privacy so she had to just suck it up. She tuned out all the whoops and hollers being cast in her direction from the other inmates as she got under the water. The hiss that escaped her mouth was unavoidable when the droplets first hit Claire's skin, barely even lukewarm.

She proceeded to wash and rinse off as quickly as possible, knowing that the longer she was there with her back turned the higher the risk climbed of someone trying something with her, let alone whatever Jihl had planned for her and Yun. Suddenly she was deathly aware of the silence in the place, all chatter had ceased, and she turned around to find herself face to face with an aggressive looking inmate.

"Such a pretty face you got girly, yet you hid it behind that damn book all mornin'. What's that all about?" She drawled, her voice raspy from what was likely too many years of substance abuse. Farron chose to ignore her comments and stared blankly back at her. Out of the corner of Claire's eyes, she saw Yun Fang enter the bathroom in her robe, skipping the queue and taking up the cubicle next to her. Seemingly ignoring the current altercation occurring, she proceeded to remove the tattered cotton material from around her shoulders, humming quietly to herself.

The inmate grabbed Claire by the jaw and pulled her close. The woman's stubby fingers were filthy, and Farron wasn't hesitant about letting her distaste show. "So how's about it girly? Want to keep me company for the evening?"

Revulsion ran through Claire's mind at the very thought and slowly reached up to grip the brute woman by the wrist. She squeezed and twisted slowly, moving the offending hand away from her throat. "If I wanted to spend the night with a beast," Farron growled, "I would have requested a transfer to a swamp pit. Would have been cleaner than you."

Barking laughter rang out from next to them as the thug's eyes widened in rage. "You keep yer damn mouth shut Oerba." The inmate warned. "Just coz I share a cell wit' you doesn't mean I won't snap your snotty little neck for getting between me and my girly here." The tanned woman whirled around dangerously and leant over the short wall separating her cubicle from Claire's.

"And you watch yours Paddra. I'm in here 'til I'm dead. Like I care if I get a few more years on my belt to put your arse through a wall."

"Tch, animals."

They both looked at Claire, who had gone back to washing herself, scrubbing the soot marks from her face the rude inmate had left. "I belong to no one. Touch me again like that and I'll claim your wrist." She called over her shoulder.

The prisoner grinned, a poor attempt at a flirtatious smile when half her teeth were missing. "Maybe you can have the rest of me too little girly, not just my wrist." She sauntered under the water and gripped the pinkette around the waist. There was no time to even reconcile what happened next. Farron took the inmate's wrist by the hand and twisted it in a terrible direction, breaking the bone. As the woman screamed Claire whipped her head back, smashing the woman square in the face and knocking out a few more teeth in the process. Yun Fang looked impressed, leaning over further to look at her laid out cellmate.

"Damn. That'll teach her good. Hey Sunshine, you got a bit of blood in your hair from that idiot. You need a hand washing it out?" Claire found the salacious smile from the Pulsian far more visually pleasing than the previous one she'd received but still was annoyed at the forward nature regardless. If this was all part of Jihl's setup, it was a terrible idea. It would be too easy. It would get her killed.

"You want to end up like her too?" Farron hissed as she went back under the water to quickly wash her hair. Fang stood back up, spine straight so she could tower over the pinkette despite the low wall separating them.

"You have any idea who I am?"

Farron rinsed the soap out of her hair before turning the water off. "A prisoner, like the rest of us. Beyond that, I don't care." She donned her prison-issue robe and walked out, kicking the unconscious thug in the face as she left.

In the monitoring room, Jihl was seething. "What the hell does she think she's doing? There was a perfect opportunity to sidle up to Yun and she didn't take it!"

Cid was far more perceptive and held a hand up to silence the blonde's ranting. "Off script was the best thing she could have done given the situation. Watch."

They watched Yun on the screen as she still stood facing the exit Farron had just left. "Oh. Oh, I like her." Her accent crackled through the audio.

"She's dropped the lure. Now she will set about reeling her in." Raines observed.

"Well then if she's so intent on improvising, let's give her a hand with that shall we?" Jihl snapped, still visibly frustrated.

Chapter Text

"Get up prisoner Palazzo, you're being moved. Zaidelle you have the place to yourself again."

Farron gathered her meagre things and nodded in acknowledgement. "Look after yourself, Alyssa. Keep your head down, put in for a few volunteer things down at the library, you might end up getting your parole earlier." The blonde's head snapped up, shocked at the words from Claire. It was about the most she had said in the week that they'd shared a cell.

"Soooo what was that all about Farron?" The guard whispered as he escorted her down the hall.

"She was just a kid in the wrong place at the wrong time, in with the worst crowd. They don't all deserve to be here." Claire sighed at her handler. "So what's happening here?"

"Jihl's kind of pissed that you didn't follow the script so she's fiddled with transfers to get you in the same cell as Yun," Rygdea responded softly, barely moving his jaw as he spoke.

Claire couldn't help but turn around and stare incredulously. "Are you fucking kidding me? That whole scenario was like every bad prison porn movie, does she want answers or not?"

Rygdea stifled laughter as he regarded the pinkette. "And just how many bad prison pornos have you seen Farron?" He beamed in amusement as he watched her face go red.

"Not my point and you know it." She hissed, "And Jihl trying to speed things up is going to get me into trouble. I've done enough profile studies on Yun Fang to know that she hasn't gotten as far as she has by just blindly trusting the first pair of breasts shoved in her face. Nabaat is reckless and it's going to get me killed."

"Then don't play by her rules pinky… you've done a great job of doing that thus far, so just keep doing it. She's not in here, you are. Now uh, I'm sorry about this but it's gotta be authentic." Rygdea looked a little embarrassed, but before Claire could enquire further he had slipped his role back on and pushed her by the shoulder, making her stumble as she reached her cell.

"Come on, hurry up I got a cigarette to smoke. Meet your new cellmate, Yun. After that stunt your friend pulled yesterday she's in solitary and this one gets to move into her spot."

"Is it at least a new mattress?" Farron drawled sardonically. She suppressed a yelp when Rygdea slapped her on the ass to get her to hurry along into the cell. Right. Gotta make it look "authentic," Claire thought bitterly. "Hey, guard," She said quietly. Rygdea came back up to the bars with a concerned look on his face.

"What is it, Palazzo?"

He was caught unaware and unprepared when Claire whipped her hand out and grabbed him by the collar. She jerked him forward hard, grinning as she heard the 'thunk' of his face hitting the bars.

"Gotta make it look authentic…" she mouthed silently as she shrugged at his split lip. "Maybe you'll think twice the next time you think it's a good idea to touch an inmate without their permission." She spat at his feet and then turned around to make herself comfortable, completely ignoring her new cellmate's fascinated staring.

"Well aren't you just a ray of sunshine?"

Claire said nothing, grabbing one of her books and opening it to where she was up to as she took up her spot on the bunk underneath. Yun had been sitting on the small desk opposite the bunk beds, watching the entrance with great interest. But the pinkette's lack of communication and snubbing had bothered her. She wasn't used to people putting up with her usual antics to the point of where they were outright rebuked or ignored. This'll at least keep me entertained for the foreseeable future… She thought to herself and chuckled.

The Pulsian stood up and walked over to the bunk, very aware that everything would be very close to the inmate's eye level. Yun deliberately stretched luxuriously as she took her shirt off, putting her tattooed abdomen on display. Not that she would give the criminal the satisfaction of knowing, but Claire had to pause in her reading for a moment as she heard Yun fumbling around on the mattress above her while her taut abdominal muscles were at eye level. Her tanned skin was covered in a variety of images, text clearly in Pulsian and Etro iconography splayed across her visible body. Which at this point was highly visible as she only wore a black crop top and black tight shorts.

"You don't mind if I do my daily chores in here do you Sunshine?" a husky voice rang out from above Claire's head. She still said nothing, even as Yun bent down from where she was standing so that the mattress was no longer obscuring anything from the neck up. Claire's eyes moved up to meet Yun's against her will. A shrug was given from the pinkette as the only response she could muster.

Her thoughts went back to the dossier to remind herself of the atrocious amount of crime this woman had committed. If this were just a night out at a bar and they had met Claire couldn't say for certain that she wouldn't have allowed this tanned menace to take her home to bed. She had to reluctantly admit that from a surface level, Yun Fang was certainly beautiful. About a head taller than she was, most of that came from her long legs. High-defined cheekbones with a beauty mark under her right eye that crinkled up every time with that damnable irritating smirk.

Chores… what chores? Claire thought to herself. The question was answered as Yun dropped into doing push-ups, counting them out as she exhaled. Her muscles rippled along her shoulder blades as she pushed up against the weight of her own body, occasionally pressing herself off the floor with one arm to clearly show off. She then spun around on the floor and launched into a series of crunches and sit-ups, making sure to face the pinkette as she did them. Claire couldn't help herself. She stared at a bead of sweat making its way down the centre of her tensing abdominal muscles, making a wet trail down her front.

Etro… this place must be getting to me already. Farron thought as she coughed and buried her head in her book to obscure her vision. "Like what you see, Sunshine?" the Pulsian's voice called out from behind her book. Claire just ground her teeth and refused to speak. She felt the mattress shift beneath her and slender tanned fingers appeared over the top of the pages she was reading. They slowly lowered the book to come very close to Yun's face. "I kinda feel like we got off on the wrong foot here, so I thought I might pop over to your place and introduce myself." She chuckled at her own joke, which made Claire roll her eyes.

"I know who you are." She clipped in response.

"Aye? I thought you said you didn't yesterday?"

Claire's eyes narrowed and she snapped the book shut, the Pulsian barely missing her fingers getting caught. "I said I didn't care, not that I didn't know. A remarkable difference I can assure you. You're Yun Fang. And I'm not caring. So Yun, let me get back to my reading."

Jade eyes rolled around mimicking Claire's earlier gesture. "Fucking typical Cocoonian. You lot never get the naming conventions right. My name is Fang. Yun is my clan's name. In Pulse, the family comes before the individual, so it's reflected in our names as well."

Claire had to admit she was genuinely taken aback by the admission. She hadn't done her research as thoroughly as she had thought. "My… apologies Fang." She said quietly, blushing as she did so. Fang licked her lips at the sight of colour along the pale-skinned cheeks.

"So come on, you can make it up to me by introducing yourself."

Claire sighed, knowing she was beaten. "My name is.. Aranea. Aranea Palazzo." Fang made a sound low in her throat as her eyes narrowed.

"You paused slightly before you said your name you know."

Farron's heartbeat sped up suddenly. She fought down the panic with a swallow and kept her face neutral, responding at first with a shrug. When she found the imposing Pulsian still staring at her, Claire thought a reply was in order. "I was never really attached to my name. I don't really feel like an Aranea. Never have. Just can't be bothered doing the paperwork to change it."

"Hmmm…" Fang purred in response, "Well Palazzo, welcome to hell with fluorescent lighting."

The next day in the yard, Claire deliberately kept her distance in the yard while Fang did her rounds. Socialising, wheeling and dealing, bartering and scheming. The pinkette watched while keeping an eye on her book, writing small encoded notes in the pages of her book closest to the spine.

A random blonde haired woman sat down next to her and huffed. "So this is nice. A nice day, nice place, nice people am I right?"

The pinkette eyed her suspiciously, expecting a shank to be brandished. "Can… I help you?"

"Name's Lettie Zalera. Jihl's moving up her schedule as you insist on going off script." Claire paled at the constant spanners Nabaat insisted on throwing into the works.

"Have you done any reading on Fang? Any of the profiles, the history, the records? If you follow Jihl's plan you're going to get killed."

She shrugged and waved her off with her hand. "As if. Nabaat is a highly trained agent of Psicom. Just because you're a lowly GC cop that got handpicked for your looks is why you're sitting over here reading a book instead of actually doing the job that's assigned to you."

Lettie got up and sauntered off, and Claire's angry gaze followed her. She then glanced over towards Fang to find the Pulsian had been watching her. The brunette leapt off the bench and meandered over to her and sat down against the fence next to her.

"What was that all about?"

Claire shrugged, not sure how else to respond.

"Come on Palazzo.. Why was she asking about me?" Fang smiled but there was nothing jovial behind the piercing stare she gave the pinkette. Claire fidgeted in her seat and looked away, trying to calm her racing heart.

"I don't know. She was asking about the players or something. Probably looking to cut a deal somewhere. I wasn't really listening. She made me uncomfortable so I tuned her out."

Fang nodded as she processed the information. The Pulsian yawned and stretched languidly as casually as possible before getting up. "I'll leave you to your book Palazzo. Give me a rundown on it later yeah?"

Claire's heart was in her throat as she watched the brunette leave. Fang went and sat back down on the table at the other end of the yard, staring at the sky.

Wait, she's not staring at the sky, she's turning her head slightly every time Lettie moves… She's watching her! She thought with creeping dread.

Lettie wandered past a couple of times before finally mustering up the courage to approach the notorious Yun.

"Hi there… I'm Lettie," She said in a sultry tone that made Claire want to retch, "The word tells me you're the go-to woman of the hour for needing… things…"

Fang smiled her charming smile and leant forward, resting her head on her hands. "All depends on what you need darlin'. I can be very accommodating."

The blonde woman grinned and moved closer to Fang. "Just after a few smokes, then maybe a good time later… What do you say?"

Claire winced, she was following the script to the letter. Fang leant forward with a salacious smirk on her face. "A generous offer indeed. I think I can hook you up with a few smokes. I think I can hook you up with a lot of things." The pinkette suppressed her shock at what she was witnessing… Could she have been wrong? Was Fang actually buying the show? She watched as the Pulsian pulled the blonde close and Lettie laughed. But there was an edge of nervousness to the sound, like she was just realising now what she was getting herself into.

"How long?" Fang asked as she wrapped her arms around the waist of the woman.

"What… How long what? How long do we need?" Lettie queried, watching the two other inmates that were sitting at the table stand up and move away.

"No, how long have you been doing this gig for?"

Claire watched the inmates move to opposite ends of the yard, one striking up a conversation with a guard, distracting him, and the other move towards the gate, calling out another prisoner to start an argument.

Shit.. I wasn't wrong…

"Gig? Oh the prison thing? I'm in for a few years. Possession."

Fang sighed and ran her hands up underneath Lettie's shirt until she found what she was looking for. "Oh darlin'. You really have to tell your superiors to try harder." The blonde paled as she realised the Yun had been fishing around for the wire she was wearing. Fang's smile vanished and was replaced with a cold, hard expression as she drew back a fist and clocked the undercover agent square in the face.

Lettie fell back as the yard exploded into chaos, with the guards not knowing where to race to first with Fang's other companions starting trouble on either end of the yard. Fang leapt on top of the prone blonde, straddling her waist with a dangerous grin. She leant forward until she was right up against the woman's face.

"The only reason you're going to see the sun rise tomorrow is that it's obvious that you were thrown in the deep end without any idea of what you were getting yourself into. You are unbelievably lucky that I have a soft spot for complete fucking morons. Go back to your superiors, child. Tell them I could smell the badge on you from the minute you entered the yard." She licked at Lettie's ear and laughed as the guards came to pull her off the agent.

From the other end of the yard, Claire had stood clutching her book like it was a lifeline. Fang jogged over to her once she had placated the guards with some quick handed offerings of whatever she was carrying. "Sorry about all that Sunshine. Undercover cop. They've been trying this shit for months. But for fuck's sake give me a challenge, these rookies have no idea."

"Huh." Claire was fighting to maintain composure after what she had witnessed. The Pulsian put an arm around her shoulder and pulled her close.

"Don't worry about it love. Not your fault she got close to me, she would have been gunning for me anyway regardless of whether you told her I was a lowly petty thief or the overlord of this entire place. I'll teach you all their tells so you will spot them from a mile off in the future."

Fang had decided that her new cellmate was the next best thing to having a television inside. She poked and prodded at the pinkette at every conceivable opportunity. But every now and again Aranea, or Palazzo as Fang preferred to call her, would drop her almost impenetrable guard and she would get to learn something more about the pale-skinned woman.

Other times the defensive wall would climb even higher. She'd never had to work so hard in her life to get into someone's good graces... And ultimately her pants. Fang chuckled to herself. She enjoyed the challenge however as it kept her busy and there was something genuinely intriguing about the woman that she found endlessly fascinating.

"So come on, million gil question Palazzo."

Claire rolled her eyes for the twentieth time that day, to the point of where she wondered if her eye muscles could outperform Fang on the weight bench. "What question?"

"The one everyone asks at one point or another. You've been here for three weeks now and I still have no idea what you are in for. I don't really have to tell you mine, just tick every box on the list. But what about you?"

"Is that really any of your business?"

Fang poked her head over the edge of her mattress, her head hanging upside down as she regarded the pinkette with a smirk. "Well I gotta know who I'm dealing with here don't I? If you're a serial killer or something I need to know if I should be sleeping with one eye open or not."

"It's been three weeks Fang. If I haven't killed you by now with your incessant need to annoy me, I'm not likely to." She looked up to find the Pulsian with wide glistening eyes and a giant pout.

"Aw come on Sunshine, please?"

She sighed and closed her book. "This and that. Used to be a runner for a drug dealer back home as a kid. Boosted cars, few weapons charges. It kind of…. Escalated. Hence, here for the next fifteen years."

"Fifteen? Damn. Love you must have fucked up to cop that." Before the pinkette could respond a commotion was heard from the entrance to the cellblock, and Rygdea appeared at their cell door with a decidedly nervous look on his face that was missed by neither inmate.

Claire paled when Jihl Nabaat appeared at the bars, yelling at the guard to open the door. What the hell does she think she's doing…

"Miss Palazzo. I thought I'd come in to check on my favourite transfer. You seem to be quite comfortable here, treating it like a resort stay? Catching up on your reading?"

Fang stayed silent, watching the woman's face as her voice rang higher and higher the madder she got. "You're not here to be comfortable Palazzo. You're here to do your time. Guard, confiscate her possessions. She can… get them back at the end of the school day." Nabaat finished with a chuckle.

"But Ma'am…"

"Now officer."

He stepped forward and put his hand out for the book. His eyes were apologetic despite him not being able to say anything. Rygdea looked genuinely worried as he scooped the remaining books out of the cupboard.

"Hey lady, does that massive stick up your arse make it hard to walk? This place is already hell, you don't need to make it any worse." Fang piped up from the top bunk. Jihl glared at the Pulsian with murderous intent.

"Don't think I can't put my sights on you as well Yun. You may not be in my jurisdiction but this one is. There are plenty of ways I can make your life worse vicariously through her." She hissed with barely contained rage.

"Are you done? Can I get back to my job now of sitting here for the next fourteen years, eleven months and nine days?" Claire yawned, trying to remain undisturbed by Jihl's blatant meddling that was risking her position, as well as her life.

"Oh I'm sorry, am I boring you, Palazzo? Making you tired? Well, let's see how you have a good rest now. Guards, her mattress as well. She can sleep on the bed slats for the next month and see how much she enjoys talking back to authority."

"Are you fucking kidding me?" Claire exclaimed. Two other guards came in when Rygdea hesitated and ripped the mattress out from under her, unceremoniously dumping her on the concrete floor in the process.

Nabaat, satisfied with her work span on her heel and left. "Until next time Aranea.." she called out from the hallways.

Silence settled back in the cell as Claire took stock of herself and stared miserably at her now empty cupboard. A whistle sounded from above her as Fang leapt off the bed and held out a hand. "Drawing the ire of a Psicom agent huh? Now that's saying escalated as an understatement aye Sunshine?" Reluctantly Claire took the Pulsians hand and allowed herself to be hoisted up.

"Wait how the hell did you know she was Psicom?"

Fang shrugged and looked around the cell, contemplating the newly introduced complication to their living arrangement. "All those arrogant bastards have the same smell about them. Just like that Lettie bird in the yard the other day. What did you do to piss that one off?"

"I…. stole her car and put it into a ravine. On purpose."

The brunette baulked at the answer. "You're fucking kidding me right?"

Farron shrugged a little sheepishly. "It…. Was a dare. A really, really stupid dare."

Fang laughed uproariously and nodded to herself like she was deciding something, and then patted Claire on the back. "Welp, it landed you in here but it would have been worth it to see the look on that bint's face. If her lips puckered anymore they'd look like a cat's arsehole. But whaddya know. Palazzo has a wild streak. Come on, let's go get some dinner and call it a night."

When night fell and lockdown was in place, Claire stared at the unwelcoming bed slats and winced. Fang walked in behind her and took stock of the room, before going up to her bed and throwing the sheets and pillows off it. "What are you doing?" Farron asked, watching the spectacle.

"What's it look like? Can't have you sleeping on that, you'll do your back in and then you won't be worth shit the next time that grabby Paddra bitch tries to pull one on you with her wandering hands again."

"Oh no. No no no no no. If you think I'm going to be sharing a mattress with you and your wandering hands you can think again." Claire backed up, glowering at the Pulsian. Fang held her hands up in a defensive gesture.

"Hey now. You've made your point and your stance abundantly clear. I may be a lot of things but I do harbour some respect. I promise you on the honour of the Yun clan that my hands will not wander to forbidden territories… Unless requested." She added with a cheeky grin.

"Tch." Claire clicked her tongue in annoyance and disbelief. The grin disappeared from the tanned face and was replaced with something a little more sombre.

"Hey come on Palazzo. I swear on my sister tearing my hair out and beating me to a bloody pulp that I won't touch you. We'll move the mattress sideways. It won't be the most comfortable night's sleep with our legs well off the edge but it'll make more space between us." She made the bed with what pillows and blankets she had, and then lay down as far as she could on the edge of it to further solidify her point.

In all of Claire's research that she had done on her many submissions to Psicom, she had never expected chivalry to be in Fang's nature. She was correct, it was absolutely uncomfortable with their legs hitting the floor from their calves and the pillows hanging off the other end, but at least their spines would be slightly elevated on the terrible mattress. They got as comfortable as they could given the circumstances and lay there silently with a gap between them that felt like a chasm.

"Thanks, Fang. You… didn't have to do this. You don't know me from any other stranger and yet you stuck up for me." Claire said quietly, choosing to break the silence. Internally she had felt very conflicted about this afternoon's altercation with Jihl. The side of authority was using their position to abuse her and the criminal was the one that stood up for her.

In that moment she felt lonelier than ever. She missed her sister, she missed her co-workers. Stuck here for who knows how long while Nabaat decided to use her as a personal pin cushion, being trapped in a cramped cell with someone that has more murders on their record than notches on a belt.

"Hey, don't even worry about it. Us types gotta stick together. We're the only family we got in here." Fang replied, piercing the darkness with her voice that held a surprisingly gentle tone.

"You said... You had a sister? Before?"

The Pulsian made a sound of confirmation, nodding her head in the darkness. "Yeah. 'Nille. I got into all this mess to try to build a better life for her after our parents were killed. Look at how far down the road that got me."

Claire baulked at the admission. She had taken the opposite path after a troubled childhood, getting into police work and joining the security forces in Bodhum for her sister after their own parents died. The same sort of sacrifices willingly given for their only family, two very different outcomes. And yet they were sharing the same filthy thin mattress in the end weren't they?

"What about you darlin'? Got any family?"

"I… I have a sister too. I had to become her guardian after our parents died. Mom died from an illness when I was about 9, my sister 6. Dad followed suit when I was 16. I quit school and took up jobs wherever I could find them to keep us out of the orphanage... Did some stupid shit to pay the bills, and then.."

"You wound up in the same position I did. Wow. Talk about your serendipity. What's her name?" Fang enquired innocently though her eyes narrowed subtly.

"Serah," Claire said without thinking, caught up in the moment. A brief moment of panic welled up in her at the slip-up, but then she realised the name was as common as the sun rising so wouldn't have meant much in the long run. "The only thing I have of her in here is my memories and the hand-stitched Etro's Seal she made for me when she was a kid. Gods, I don't even have that anymore. I was using it as a damn bookmark…" Fang's face smoothed out a little at the personal admission.

Claire sighed. "She's been kept… out of the loop. Of all this. No idea how I'm going to keep this from her though.." She gestured broadly at the room around her. That wasn't a lie. She didn't have time to talk to Serah about the assignment before she was whisked off to be thrown in with the behemoths. She was going to cop the lecture of a lifetime when she got out, if her sister didn't kill her first.

"Don't even stress yourself about it, Palazzo. We won't be in here forever.. Goodnight Sunshine.." Fang trailed off with a yawn, leaving Claire alone with her thoughts.

She seems awfully optimistic about that…

Chapter Text

"Oi! You two are lookin' awful chummy lately, Oerba take you as her bitch?" The awful woman known only to Claire as Paddra snarled at them in the courtyard. She had since joined up with one of the prison gangs following her beating and was clearly looking for payback.

"Why? If I did would you be jealous?" Fang bit back, in no mood for any banter today. She was on edge, Claire noticed, distracted and looking for something. There was a fight over in the other corner that seemed to end in a bit of bloodshed between two inmates, and the guards ran over to help the wounded inmate off to the medical bay.

Paddra took her opportunity and slammed into the unfocussed Pulsian, sending her sprawling. Claire was up in an instant, whirling on the woman and kicking her in the stomach. She didn't even know what had come over her or why her instinct was to immediately defend the Yun, but she ran with it. Laying punch after punch into the not-so-smug face of Paddra, Claire was only stopped when two of the brute's lackeys came in and dragged her off, kicking her in the ribs in the process.

The pinkette struggled to get air back in her system, and the whistle sounded from one of the guards as he raced over to break up the situation. Two other guards joined the fracas, beating Paddra into submission with their electric batons. Claire crawled over to Fang to check on her, and she was unresponsive. "Fang! Come on wake up Fang." She rasped, clutching at her ribs. The guards helped her up and picked up the Pulsian woman as well. The first guard to come to their aid was Rygdea, who had Claire lean on him with an arm around his shoulder as he helped her out of the recreational area.

"Shit woman, you sure know how to pack a punch!" He exclaimed to the wheezing woman who was still trying to get air back into her lungs. "We better take you two up to the infirmary."

"Fang, is she ok?" Claire asked.

"She'll be fine," One of the guards carrying her called behind him, "Looks like she just hit her head when she landed and knocked herself out. She'll come to eventually."

The doctor checked Farron out and concluded it was only some minor bruising to the rib cage where she was kicked, thankfully nothing was broken. He gave her some painkillers and a book to read. With Fang still out cold and the only other patient was the stabbing victim from earlier that they witnessed, the guards left, with Rygdea staying outside to keep watch. The doctor milled about at the other end of the room, busying himself with other work.

"Psssst. Hey, pssssst!" a whisper came from the bed on the other side of Claire. She looked over to find a pale brunette with ridiculously long hair grinning from ear to ear. "Hi, I'm Tifa. Rikku told me about you."

"Rikku? Who is Rikku?" Claire asked, confused at the casual nature of the stranger's conversation.

"That'd be one of the best thieves this side of Nova Chrysalia." Fang's familiar voice rang out from the bed beside her.

"Fang! You're awake! Are you ok?"

A sheepish chuckle met her ears as a response.

"You… were awake the entire time weren't you." Claire surmised with an annoyed tone.

"Yeah, yeah. Was necessary. And your concern for me was just cute as a bug to boot!" Fang's smug grin spread across her face as Claire went red and scowled. "Well, now that we're all here... I'm bored Palazzo. Wanna blow this popsicle stand and go get drinks?" Fang sat up and stretched, cracking her knuckles in the process.

"Ha ha very funny. You forget we're in a prison when you hit your head?"

The Pulsian just smiled a very predatory smile that made Claire feel uneasy. "You sure Rikku got the goods Tifa?" The young girl nodded enthusiastically and leapt out of bed, wincing as she remembered she had a stab wound in her side. She ran to the door and yanked it open, startling Rygdea on the other side. He barely had time to react before he was laid out in the hallway by a swift and brutal right hook. Fang did the same to the doctor and ran over to drag the unconscious guard back into the medic room. Tifa propped them both up on the beds and drew the curtains.

All the while Claire was staring at them in shock. "What the fuck are you doing?" she hissed, panic not able to be suppressed as she checked Rygdea for signs of life.

"Told you, we wouldn't be in here for long and I meant it. I mean shit if you want to stay here, that's fine but don't you want to see your sister? People like us don't belong in cages Aranea. We deserve to be free."

Farron was torn. She was outnumbered with her only escape currently unconscious on a hospital bed before her. She didn't want to have any part of helping Fang escape, but if she revealed her identity and tried to stop them she would end up dead. If I go with them I will at least be able to lead Psicom to her, if I don't she could disappear altogether…

"Ok. I'll come with you."

Fang's face lit up with what looked to be a genuine smile. "Awwwright! Tifa, lead the way!"

The way ended up being through the hallways of the medical wing until they came across the boiler room access. Tifa fished a key out of her hair and unlocked it, ushering the other two inside quickly before locking it behind her. The three women made their way down the stairs and through the hot corridors in silence, until they came to a dead end. "Uh, Tifa? You sure you got the right directions?"

"Tch. Please. I didn't get myself stabbed for kicks you know." She replied curtly while kicking open a decommissioned boiler. Its back was removed to find a tunnel stretching into the darkness beyond. They crouched in the low space and crawled through for a spell until they could see light up ahead. Fresh air hit them in the face like a cool welcome after crawling around in filthy tunnels. The breeze was tinged with salt from the ocean nearby, and Tifa motioned for them to follow her through the trees. They came across an old run down pier that had a small boat attached to it.

"Like clockwork. Etro I love that woman. Remind me to buy her a stripper or something." Fang breathed, elated with the open ocean in front of her. A bag with a bunch of clothes was stuffed behind the boat seat, and Fang rummaged through it. "Couple of days' worth of gear here if it was just me, or enough for everyone to go around!" She passed around a few shirts and pants, laughing a little at how oversized some of the shirts were.

"Oh. Before I forget. Palazzo, here I swiped this from one of the guards for you." Claire turned to Fang and found her palm being opened and an item placed on it. When she drew back she realised Fang had gotten the fabric with the symbol of Etro stitched onto it, the Pulsian remembering the story she had mentioned. Despite it being a haphazardly thrown together idea at the last minute, she still felt a little warmed by the gesture.

She didn't get the opportunity to thank her though, with the alarm sounding from the Gallies nearby.

"That's our queue to book ladies, let's ride!"

Claire Farron couldn't believe it. Here they were on the docks back in Eden with nobody chasing them and freedom before them. Fang must have been planning this for months for it to have been so perfectly executed. "Damn I gotta get back to HQ and find out what the lay of the land is.." Fang muttered, looking at the unfamiliar scene of a completely renovated downtown. Tifa chuckled with a hint of sadness to the tone.

"What HQ? Sanctum buried that the moment you were imprisoned. There is no NORA anymore. Anyone that wasn't killed or arrested put their guns down and walked before they wound up with the same fate as the rest. Just… keep your head down, go get a drink, a lap dance, whatever it is you do to unwind."

"Normally I just blow shit up." Fang replied with a shrug, as casually as she was mentioning the weather. Claire rolled her eyes and looked around to see if they were drawing any attention or if there were any Psicom agents secretly waiting to swoop in and arrest the two criminals.

Technically aside from Nabaat, Cid and Rygdea all the other staff and inmates thought I was a criminal as well so I guess I'm sort of on the run too… She thought to herself with slight amusement.

Tifa handed Fang a burn phone and a wallet with a couple of grand's worth of gil inside. "This is the rest of the gear Rikku wanted you to have. It'll be enough to get yourself some better clothing, figure out your next moves… or you know, get a hovertrain out of the damn city…. My number is on there if you need me for anything though. I'll get in touch with Rikku and get her to call you when she has a chance. Laters." The brunette gave Fang a wrist bump then took off into the streets with a jog, leaving Fang and Claire alone.

"Well fuck, what now? Drinks?"

Claire shrugged. After the day they've had, a drink was definitely in order at bare minimum. She grabbed a couple of gil out of the wallet Fang had been given and pointed at a pay phone across the street. "I gotta call my sister, check in and make sure she's ok first. Don't trust burner phones all that much and we'll be long gone before they trace the public phone."

Fang nodded and gestured to a nearby clothing store. "No worries love, I'm gonna duck in there and see if I can't get something a little less… conspicuous. Meet me there when you're done yeah?" She added the invitation a little too hopefully, probably expecting Claire to run at the first opportunity. She beamed when she was met with a decisive nod from the pinkette.

They parted, and Claire jogged over to the payphone, shutting herself in the booth and dialling.

"Captain Amodar speaking."

It wasn't her sister she was planning to call at all.

"Sir, its Lieutenant Farron."

"Claire! By the Maker have I been worried about you." Scuffling was heard in the background before she heard her superior gruffly telling the other people to hold on.

"Sorry Claire, I've got you on speaker. Agents Nabaat and Raines are with me. Rygdea too."

"That's ok. Rygdea, how's the head?" Claire asked, keeping the conversation deliberately casual in case she was being watched.

"Pride hurt a lot worse for that kid to get the jump on me like she did." He replied with a chuckle.

"Never mind any of that, what the fuck do you think you're doing Lieutenant Farron?!" Jihl shrieked, all semblance of professionalism abandoned in the face of pure rage.

"I didn't know that F-Yun Fang was attempting an escape. I was put in a compromised situation that would get both me and Rygdea killed, with Fang disappearing; or I could just go along with it, stay undercover and see where the rabbit hole leads. And by the Goddess did it lead me somewhere."

"To a committee hearing and your eventual firing is where it's lead you Farron, how do you feel about going back into prison population for real this ti-"

Jihl was cut off mid-sentence, and Cid took over the conversation.

"Claire this is Cid. Are you safe currently?" She hated how he felt he was familiar enough to use her name. She didn't even like the name, not since her parents died.

"I am sir. You told me to trust my gut and I did. Granted I didn't expect it to lead me to technically be a fugitive with a notoriously dangerous criminal but I can give you our location for extraction."

"That won't be necessary. I think this will work to our advantage. You're going into deep undercover at this point Lieutenant, keep going, see what you can find. We might see where this rabbit hole leads a while longer. Keep us updated."

Farron checked the time of the call, and said she had to go. She needed to quickly call Serah to let her know she was ok. "Be safe Farron. Please." Captain Amodar begged before terminating the call. She took a breath and steeled herself for what lay ahead of her with Fang, and then quickly dialled her sister's number. Relief flooded through her system when the younger sibling picked up.

"Serah, it's me."

"Oh my god Claire WHERE have you been? It's been over a month! Your boss wouldn't tell me where you were, nobody would tell me anything!" Serah's voice was frantic, chastising and panicking all at the same time.

"Please Serah. I'm ok. I have been on an undercover operation that had me playing inmate for a moment. But I'm out now."

Serah was taken aback by the candidness of her older sister. "Wait... You never tell me about your job. You always go on about how it's classified this and confidential that… Why are you telling me this?"

Claire sucked in a breath through her teeth before she continued, "Because I'm still undercover, and I need you to not freak out if you see me on the news or anything ok? I'm with Fang, Psicom has me on assignment to try to take out the last remnants of NORA."

"Fang… As in Yun Fang…." Serah trailed off, overwhelmed at her sister's predicament.

"Serah I.. I have to go, please just… I'll be ok just don't worry. And uh, again don't freak out if I wind up on the news. I'll try to get in touch with you again when I can."

"Claire! I love you. Please be safe."

"I love you too Serah. I will talk to you as soon as I am able." She hung up the phone then, with her hand lingering on the receiver. She sighed sadly and turned to exit and yelped in fright as she was met with a vision of Fang pressed up against the glass pulling ridiculous faces at her.

"Fuck's sake Fang are you trying to give me a heart attack?" She yelled at the Pulsian as she slammed the door open in anger. Fang just grinned and danced around her like a hyperactive kitten looking to play. "Naw Palazzo, the conversation with your sis just seemed so serious I thought you could use some lightening up." She clapped a hand over Claire's back guffawing at her own antics.

"You were taking your time so I figured I'd just get some other clothes for you. I guessed your size but that should be fine… I'm not usually wrong about the shape of a woman's body." She waggled her eyebrows suggestively at Claire who huffed and took the bag from her. "There's a bar nearby that will have a change room and a cold beer. You in?"

"Yeah. You're buying the damn beer though."

Chapter Text

In the bathroom at the bar, Claire was surprised to find something not completely objectionable. Tight fitting but comfortable jeans, black canvas sneakers and a deep red singlet shirt of moderate quality. Fang had even thrown in a baseball cap and a pair of aviator shades. She felt slightly more comfortable knowing that she wasn't in crumpled mismatching clothing that drew far too many glances her way. The comfort diminished slightly when she realised that Fang wasn't joking about being a good guess of size; the clothes fit her perfectly.

She wandered back out to the bar to find Fang hidden away in a corner booth, two tall cold beers sitting untouched in front of her. The aroma of beer-soaked carpet and cigarettes permeated the air, and Claire found it strangely comforting. The dim lights made time feel like it had stopped while within the confines of the establishment. With no windows to tell it was the middle of the day outside, it was forever 2am with the revellers and whiskey.

The brunette looked deep in thought, with a furrowed brow and tight lips. Claire steeled herself before she sat down, reminded that she had a job to do. "Gil for your thoughts there?"

Fang smiled and casually slid one of the glasses across the table to her. "Just thinking about how much can change in so little time. I've only been out of the loop for two years, and there's nothing left. Everything we worked for, gone. No more NORA, no more anything. What's next Palazzo?"

Claire couldn't help but smile. "Tropical beach somewhere with a lot of drinks and no more gangland crap?"

Fang chuckled at the suggestion and took a long drink from her glass. "Maybe. Etro that is good." She murmured happily into the foam on the beer.

"What about the leader? Can't you get in touch with them?" Claire enquired, offering suggestions out to see what information would be given up.

"Please. I wouldn't know where that bastard escaped to any more than I'd know how to live a clean life. Nor would I want any involvement anyway... Prick was trying to join the FAL'CIE."

Farron's head snapped up at the mention of the acronym. "The what?"

"A bullshit name made from two company fronts. Foreign Alliance Legal, and Cocoon Investment Energy. They're an international cartel that has all the trimmings of a legitimate business organisation but ran entirely by criminals. When they invite gangs to join, it's at the cost of either the vast majority of profits or being wiped out. You think a couple of gang bangers running opiates are bad news, at least the cops know how to deal with those and keep a relative balance. The Fal'Cie don't fuck around, they have no code of honour… espionage, high treason, human trafficking, assassination… They provide the resources on ground level in exchange for reaping all of the outcomes and turning the gangs into nothing but glorified lackeys."

Claire had to admit she'd never heard of the organisation or the full extent of their dealings. This was huge. "Wait, you're saying the gangs you fought against were involved?"

Fang laughed into her beer and spluttered. "What, the Death Gazers, Ronso and Kilika99? Fuck no, they couldn't organise a root in a whore house, Sunshine. The guys are that have moved in and taken up shop since, whoever the fuck they are? More than likely. The Fal'Cie have had their eyes on Eden for a long time. When Titan was contacted he wanted us to join. I wouldn't have a bar of it. I did most of his dirty work for him, wasn't about to lose it all to a bunch of arseholes that didn't lift a finger for it."

A lot of things suddenly clicked into place. The shift in underworld activity over the last few years in the wake of the old gangland's demise. It became more sophisticated, harder to catch, harder to keep behind bars. Because the organised crimes unit in Psicom had yet to apprehend anyone major in the hierarchy, the "resource acquisition" of gangs across Cocoon and Pulse remained a mystery to them. Until now, when Fang mentioned the key player as casually as mentioning the weather.

Fang's attention was drawn to a familiar face on the television behind the bar. "Oi Keep. Turn that up will you?"

"Former NORA member Gadot Tsu is due to appear in court today for the final decision of his third appeal to his death sentence. If unsuccessful in his bid for freedom, which we're all going to assume is going to happen considering the crimes that got him there in the first place, execution will be scheduled a week from today. We're reporting at the courthouse in downtown Eden as it happens. Now let's go to criminal Psychol-"

The television sparked and crackled as a beer bottle was thrown at it from another bar patron. "Thought I warned you I was gonna break that box if I saw that scum on your TV again barkeep.." The man slurred. Fang let out a growl at the drunk's words. She went to get up but was stopped by a pale gentle hand on her wrist. "Fang… He's flying colours. He's from the Children of Etro."

The Pulsian raised an eyebrow and looked her over with disdain. "Children of… What kind of a stupid fucking gang name is that? No matter, all the better then." With an air of decisiveness, she wrenched her arm free and strolled over to the man with purpose. As she approached the bar the intoxicated man leant towards her lecherously, waving his beer bottle in her face.

"Awww... Precious hunny like you lookin' for a good time? I can help you with that sweet cheeks.."

Fang flashed her teeth in a dangerous grin, not even breaking her stride. "Oh, I bet you can gorgeous... I bet you can." Before he could even register the movement she had grabbed his beer bottle and slammed it into his rough looking head, shattering glass into his skin. As he screamed and clutched at his face, Fang seized him by the back of his neck and slammed him into the bar with all the force she could muster. He dropped to the floor without any further sound.

She smiled with a sultry bite of her lip and purred. "You're right. That was a good time darlin'. We'll have to do this again sometime." Fang stretched like a cat waking from a nap in the sun, and then bent down to fish through his pockets. "Let's see… A wallet, keys and a piece. Looks like I am going to be busy this afternoon." She stood up and motioned to the pinkette, still sitting stunned in the booth. "Oi Aranea, with me if you will."

Against her better judgement, she left the booth and jogged over to where Fang was standing, flipping through the unconscious drunk's wallet cards to see if there was anything useful. "Listen, Palazzo. I gotta go do something, and it's something you don't want to be involved in. A favour for an old friend." She scribbled something down on a piece of paper. "This is my number from the phone that Tifa gave me when we hit the docks. Thanks for… keeping me company yeah? Give me a call sometime."

With that Fang walked out before Claire could even respond. Screeching tyres sounded a moment later, the Pulsian having no trouble finding the drunkard's vehicle. That was… It? After all that Fang was just leaving? She looked down at the body on the floor and noticed he still had his phone. Quickly grabbing it and the knife on his belt she raced out of the bar, dialling for Rygdea.

"Yelllooo?" His voice answered on the other end of the line.

"It's Farron. You alone?"

"Oh. Nah, Cid's with me at the moment, Jihl's out to lunch though. Whatcha got for us girly?" His casual nature always contrasted the seriousness of any given situation which was disarming.

"Put me on speaker."

A few moments later she could hear Cid's voice. "Claire, what is it? Is everything ok? Didn't think we'd be hearing from you again so soon."

Once more Farron's teeth ground in her mouth at his flippant use of her name. "Fang's going to the courthouse to try to rescue her associate Gadot Tsu. But I am… not sure how to proceed, sir. She just handed us the biggest break, the name of an organisation that is bankrolling every major criminal organisation in Cocoon. The Fal'Cie.. I need to find out more before we make a move but… To help her in this would be committing a rather large felony. We need to make sure she gets out alive, but not let Gadot escape."

"The Fal'Cie? You're shitting me." She heard Rygdea exclaim in the background. Cid hushed him and leant closer to the phone on the desk.

"Claire, this is big. Huge. I had heard of the Foreign Alliance Legal and Cocoon Investment Energy companies merging but… To be the heads that bankroll the gangs of Eden? An international cartel? I couldn't even begin to care about Yun Fang if she can serve as bait for the bigger fish. Wiping out the last remnants of NORA will just be icing on the cake. Let Gadot escape with her. Help them get out. Try to convince her not to kill anyone in the process. You have full immunity from any acts you may have to commit in the line of duty. The trial has already started so you may wish to hurry." He terminated the call before she could even protest.

Why does my job have to get continuously more complicated? With a resigned sigh, she scanned the streets to look for a means of getting to the court house and quickly. Claire spied a beat up sedan a few blocks down parked in an alley that wouldn't draw attention. She fiddled with the knife now hooked onto her belt and winced. "Hope they have insurance.." She muttered while jogging over to the vehicle.

After confirming there was nobody within immediate earshot she grabbed the nearest piece of solid junk she could find in the alley, a broken paling from a nearby fence and slammed it into the driver's side window. After a few att, mpts the glass finally shattered, triggering a few barking dogs in her vicinity.

She swore under her breath and yanked open the door, using a random piece of cardboard to quickly wipe the broken glass off the seats. Cracking open the casing under the steering wheel, Claire began fiddling with the wires, using the knife she'd acquired to make cuts and strip the wire covering when required. After a moment's silent prayer to Etro while she made final adjustments, a spark flashed from her work in the driver's seat and the car purred to life.

"Still got it Farron..." she muttered, putting the car into gear and tearing down the street towards the court house.


"Mr Tsu, You're on death row for multiple offences, most importantly the two hundred and nineteen counts of murder, I don't see what you could possibly bring to the table that would justify this absolute farce of an appeal." The judge looked bored and exasperated all at the same time as he sat in the closed courtroom, glaring disdainfully at the defendant.

The man stood up, towering over his lawyer with his immense height. "In my defence, most of those two hundred and nineteen people were assholes." Gadot shrugged his massive shoulders in complete indifference.

"Mr Tsu you will watch that disrespectful tone while in my courtroom!"

"Or what? Are you going to put me to death even harder? I'm already just dragging out the clock at this point, what else can you fuckin' do?" Gadot's looming figure cut a shadow across the desk in the room. He was built like a boulder, with tree stumps for arms that consisted of solidly built muscle. At one point he was nicknamed Tank from the gang due to his ability to just force his way out of a mess from brute strength alone.

He slowly moved his neck around, deliberately making sure the bones in his neck would pop and crack with a loud noise. The judge winced at the sound and rapped his gavel against the desk. "Seeing as you're so insistent on wasting my time Mr Tsu, I am not interested in wasting any more of yours. This appeal is unequivocally dismissed, seeing as you have provided no further evidence to warrant your release."

"How's this for some fuckin' evidence?" A loud harsh accent rang out from the back of the room as a guard went flying from the force of the door being kicked open.

Fang burst into the room, picking up the keys off of the prone guard and twirled them around on her finger. Guards reached for their weapons but hesitated when Fang began to make a tutting sound with her tongue. "Not so fast boys, I have the judge in my sights and I guarantee you I will fire quicker than you can draw. Hands up, and nobody has to die today. Don't want to add to Gadot's tally after all…"

She sauntered up the aisle with her gun still trained with precision on the panicking judge until she was by Gadot's side. "Took you long enough." He uttered with a roll of his eyes as she deftly unlocked his cuffs and handed him an extra piece she'd acquired from the guard. She held up her left fist and he bumped it with enthusiasm. "Any thoughts on how we're getting out of here?" He asked as he loaded the weapon and aimed it towards the other guards.

Fang shrugged in her typically casual demeanour. "Hadn't thought that far ahead to be honest. Figured we'd wing it and see how we go." Gadot nodded and opened fire on the guards, not hitting any of them but startling them enough to duck for cover. While they were distracted the two fugitives made a break for it, sprinting from the room and down the corridor. They both ran through the white halls towards the exit, Fang hoping like hell the car was still there and ready to roll. They rounded a corner and immediately ducked for cover as a volley of automatic rifle fire opened up from a barricade of SWAT officers at the end of the hallway.

Fang leapt into a side door, with Gadot close behind her. They started moving desks and shelves and cabinets in front of the door to secure the room, making doubly sure to keep clear of the windows. There was another exit on the far side of the office, and they raced in between desk cubicles to get to it. Her pocket began to buzz, and it took Fang a moment to realise it was the phone she'd been given. She put the phone to her ear, panting as she was out of breath. "Now's not a good time Rikku, you want to maybe call me later?"

"Fang? Where are you?" Claire's voice hissed down the earpiece.

"Wha… Sunshine?" She exclaimed in disbelief. "Didn't think you'd be calling so soon but I'm in the middle of a situation right now…"

"I know," The pinkette replied, "You're at the courthouse surrounded by SWAT. Where are you in the building?"

Unsure of why this was important information to her, Fang answered reluctantly. "We're in the office section I think. Gadot is with me."

"Ok. There should be a fire escape off one of the offices, and there'll be a breach team coming up that side shortly so if you're near that exit get the hell away from it." The brunette looked at the exact exit that was being described and realised it was the one they were heading for and slowed her pace. She held Gadot by the shoulder to stop him once she realised they were headed into a trap if they continued along their current route.

"There's an external set of emergency fire stairs in the district attorney's office at the far end of that office, away from the street. It looks to be unguarded at present. If you hurry you'll be able to get down there into the alleyway. I'll be waiting. Now move it." Claire terminated the call before Fang could even respond, and it took a few seconds of the Pulsian staring at her phone in confusion before reality sunk back in.

"Shit! Gadot, we gotta move!" She took off at a sprint, with her friend stumbling as he picked himself up to follow her. They found the back office of the attorney at the end of one of the cubicle aisles and stumbled into it, slamming the door shut and pushing desks up against it just as a window broke from a tear gas canister flying into the workspace. Running to the window, Fang cautiously peered outside to check for snipers and found a sedan kicking over in the nearby alley but nobody was behind the wheel. She yanked open the window and slid out of it, racing down the fire escape two steps at a time. The steel clanked and shook with each heavy step, and Fang felt her ankle jar as she hit the concrete with a roll.


The muzzle of a rifle pressed harshly into the back of the Pulsian's head before she could get up, with another two SWAT officers coming into view with their guns trained on Gadot. "Joyride is over scumbags! You're going back in the hole Yun, and we are going to make sure you fry before sundown Gadot!" The two old friends looked at each other, weighing up whether to make their last suicidal run and take a few of the officers out with them. The decision was taken from them in a flashing blur of pink that ran past Fang's vision.

Claire appeared out of nowhere, barrelling into the fray with a roundhouse kick to an officer's neck. It sent him spinning into the asphalt with a sickening crack. Before the other two SWAT team officers could react, Farron whirled around on them, flipping out her knife and cutting one on his left cheek; then twirling it in her hand to smash the handle into the other's face. While the last man standing was clutching at his bloodied face from the slash, Claire planted a forceful foot into his sternum, throwing him back against the building with a thud.

She straightened up once she had confirmed that all combatants were out and not dead, dusting herself off with an air of indifference as Fang and Gadot stared at her slack jawed. "Come on we don't have time. The car's over here." She walked off without checking if they would follow. Fang suddenly appeared at her side, loping along like an excited puppy.

"Holy shi… Holy shit. HOLY SHIT that was INCREDIBLE!" Fang exclaimed as she slid into the passenger seat. Claire ignored her as she put the car into gear and screeched out of the alley. "You were like pow pow, and then bam and… Oh my various gods that was amazing." The brunette couldn't stop rambling, likely from adrenaline and a brush with death.

"Well it's not over yet, put your goddamn seatbelt on. This is going to get… interesting." Fumbling with the seatbelt, Fang clicked it into place and looked over her shoulder to see Gadot doing the same.

Sirens blared as multiple GC and Psicom cars roared to life out the front of the courthouse with at least three armoured vans and two sedans on their tail. Whitened knuckles gripped the steering wheel as Claire descended into complete focus. The car was beat up and old but had speed behind it, hopefully it wouldn't die mid escape and screw them all.

Claire tore down the streets, ignoring the people on the streets whipping out their phones to record the wild scene unfolding before them. Etro if I survive this Serah is going to kill me anyway when she sees this on the news… She hooked the steering wheel into a left turn, the back end of the car sliding out a little in the perfect drift. One of the armoured vans missed its mark and slammed into the building on the corner.

"That's one down.."

Driving as fast as the car would allow, Claire rapidly tried to assess her options. She looked over to Fang who was sitting leant forward looking positively giddy. With a roll of her eyes, the pinkette wondered what she would have said when she joined the GC at seventeen if she was told that this was where she'd end up in six years' time. "Fang, you know this city better than I do. Where can we go to shake these assholes off our tail?"

Gadot piped up before Fang could pause in her grinning like a maniac to register the question being asked. "If you head towards the projects ward, you'll find the Warrens there. They don't like cops there, and it's hard to manoeuvre those massive APC's in the tight corners. There are too many ways in and out of the place, so they'll never be able to blockade us in. Get to the Warrens, we can lose the cops then ditch the car." He grabbed Fang's phone and quickly punched in the coordinates on the GPS, handing it back. The brunette held it up for Claire to quickly glance over the directions, committing it all to memory.

Claire hit the brakes and slid around another corner hard, with Gadot's extra hulking weight in the back nearly causing the car to tip over as it rounded the bend on two wheels. Fang leant out the window once they were on the straight and pulled out her gun. "FANG." Claire yelled at her.


"No casualties. If there are casualties they will rip the Warrens apart looking for us and not give a shit about the civilians in their wake. Disable, do not kill."

With a huff and a roll of her eyes, the brunette popped her head out the window, ducking as she nearly got it blown off by rifle fire. "Too bad they ain't playing by the same rules sunshine!" Fang yelled as she aimed lower than her original target, firing into the wheels of one of the sedans. The first few rounds missed but then one struck true, blowing out the tyre and causing the sedan to spin out into the other squad car.

"That leaves two APC's now, and they won't make it to the Warrens." Gadot cheered with elation.

The buildings became more worn and dilapidated the further they drove, a clear indicator that they were headed towards the poorer neighbourhoods. It was clear to the lieutenant that Eden didn't care much for their less fortunate citizens, refusing even the most basic of infrastructure maintenance. The roads were riddled with potholes, some of which Claire had to swerve to avoid from being so deep. Hitting one of those could have ripped the wheel out from the axle and then that would be their escape run done for all of them.

Automatic rifle fire sounded out from behind them, the windscreen shattering around them as they all ducked. "Shit!" Fang yelled, "They must have figured out where we're headed and are trying to take us out before we reach it. She leant out the window and started firing back, with Gadot joining in. It was a futile attempt due to the heavy armour of the vehicle but was enough to keep the rifleman off balance as he aimed the turret at them.

"Driver! Alley is up ahead into the Warrens! Fang get in!" Both of them got back into the car and put their seatbelts back on as Claire focussed all her energy into making the next turn. The back slid out too far as she banked a hard left, and she clipped the side of a building when she overcorrected. Sparks flew as the sides scraped along the tight alley wall, with their vehicle barely being able to fit. Bins and boxes exploded on impact, and Claire said a silent prayer that there wasn't anyone in the alley. A devastating crunch could be heard behind them as one of the APC's tried to follow them and became wedged, with bricks and metal railings falling on top of the vehicle. The SWAT team within were sealed and out of the chase.

Claire couldn't help a smile escape, the adrenaline in her veins amped up and overrode her disbelief at the situation she found herself in. Just choosing to immerse herself into the moment, and that she was able to beat Psicom's finest was giving her a thrilling rush. Take that Nabaat.. Claire thought with a chuckle.

She was able to slow down for a moment, ducking and weaving through other alleys until Gadot told her to come to a stop in front of a waterway. "This will lead out to the sea and the flow is strong enough to carry anything out. We get out here, dump the car off the edge and continue to the safe house on foot." There was still one more APC unaccounted for, but the chances of them being able to move the colossal vehicle through the narrow streets of the Warrens was nix, so they felt safe enough for the moment.

Fang leapt out of the car, jittering still with the unreserved adrenaline burning its way through her system. "By Etro's Gate that was amazing." She breathed, leaping towards Claire in a crushing hug. Before the pinkette could even push her off let alone react Fang's lips were on hers in an aggressive kiss. She was so shocked by the sudden gesture she stood frozen, body tense and rigid as a pole. She pushed her off with a sharp elbow to the ribs.

"Ow shit. Oh. Shit. Sorry Palazzo. I dunno what came over me then. Guess I just needed to get that out of my system for you being so amazing and saving our arses."

"Or looking for an opportune moment to make your move you fiend." Claire snapped back angrily.

Gadot calmly reached into the vehicle and took the handbrake off, watching the car roll off the edge and into the waterway behind them. "So I hate to break up all this partially resolved sexual tension here as fascinating as it is, but we really need to get the fuck out of here."

The trio moved on until they came upon a small SWAT team on foot in the Warrens in search of them. They were hidden in a side alley near the markets, observing the movements of the officers as they harassed the civilians in an aggressive manner. Claire felt uncomfortable watching their treatment of innocent bystanders and weighed up the options.

"They're between us and our destination." Gadot said bluntly, obviously unsettled by the scene in front of him as well.

"Bloody bastards," Fang spat at the ground as she growled her insult, "What happened to this place? How the fuck did it go to hell in such a short amount of time?" She was barely concealing her anger at the officers, at the state of the Warrens in general.

"We weren't here to look after it. So the Fal'Cie run gangs moved in and quickly decimated it with violence and their unique way of running the show in the city. Most of the poor were shunted out here which overcrowded the joint, hence why you see it in the state that it's in." Gadot replied sadly.

"If they're the only thing between here and our goal then we need to take them out quietly. Incapacitate them quickly. While we're hidden we'll have the upper hand with surprise, reflexes and the citizens of the Warrens not ratting on us." Claire suddenly piped up, fed up with the way one officer took a small child's doll from their arms and threw it to get the kid out of their way.

Fang looked over and had a thoughtful expression on her face. "Alright Palazzo, what are you thinking?" Claire launched straight into her tactical focus.

"They're moving in a particular pattern, which will bring one of them to sweep past our hiding place shortly. Too close to pick them off one at a time, but if we can get out behind them, Gadot can take the first one as he gets too close to the alley. That leaves his patrolling partner which you can grab and take out Fang, leave the other three to me."

"Woah woah woah, I am not leaving you to take on three highly trained SWAT pricks on your own Aranea." Fang cautioned with a hand on Claire's shoulder. She shrugged the hand off and gave a small smile that the Pulsian wanted to trace out the line of her lips with her finger.

"I know. It hardly seems fair for them does it?" Claire wasn't afraid to let a little ego show. She was a dedicated and experienced fighter, who graduated at the top of her class. She trained every day and had yet to find anyone capable of keeping up.

She cracked her knuckles and gave one last look at Fang who was openly staring at her with a loose jaw and a mildly unsettling hunger in her eyes. "Strike when he's just about to see you. As soon as his partner turns, Fang, you take him out. Then you can watch me work."

With that, she ducked out from the alley and vanished into the crowds. Gadot turned to regard Fang with a quizzical expression. "So where in the hell did you find this one?"

Fang stared after the pinkette with a mixture of lust and awe, biting her lip at the retreating form. "Prison. She beat the shit out of my cellmate because the dickhead wouldn't stop trying to make a move on her."

"So you're trying to pick up where your cellmate failed?" He asked with a chuckle.

"Gods no. She'd just as soon murder me before I got to touch a tit."

"She did let you get away with a kiss before though…." Her friend mused while getting into position.

"That she did Tsu… There might be some hope for me yet!" She grinned with delight and shuffled away to put herself behind the soldiers, out of their line of sight.

One of the SWAT officers moved closer to the alley, gun at the ready but was relaxed. He wasn't expecting to find them so he was letting his guard down. How unfortunate for him.. Gadot thought as he steeled himself with legs bent and ready to go. His tall spiked red hair came into view of the officer and before he could register what he was looking at Gadot struck with a raised fist. It connected hard with his face and her crumpled. As the man's partner turned around at the sound of bone breaking Fang leapt from cover and tackled him to the ground with a hard kick to the back of his knee.

The Warrens exploded into chaos. The other three soldiers on the other side of the open area suddenly reacted to the violence and armed their weapons and trained them on Fang and Gadot. Claire ran into the centre of them and kicked one of the guns away to take it out of action. The three officers whirled on her, one of them lunging to grab her wrist. She deftly slid out of the way and kicked his shoulder, forcing him to stagger back. Another opponent slammed into her, trying to knock her to the ground. Reeling from the temporary winding, Claire flung her elbow backwards in reflex, surprised when it connected with a face.

Regaining her oxygen, her focus returned and honed in on the third opponent who was still armed. He fired a round in her direction, and she took off at a sprint, zig zagging in an attempt to avoid the bullets. One managed to graze her leg and she tumbled to the rough stone on the ground. There was no time to rest however, with Farron barely rolling out of the way in time from a boot that was crashing down towards her head.

Civilians were scattering, running for cover while Fang and Gadot took out their respective SWAT targets. Fang had found a scrap metal pole from the alley that she was using as a makeshift staff to keep the distance between herself and her adversary. She managed to smash the gun out of his hand and then whipped the staff around to collide hard with his temple. He dropped instantly and didn't get back up.

Gadot's opponent somehow managed to remain standing after the initial devastating blow to his skull but wasn't likely to stay on his feet much longer. The officer's energy was waning quickly, his punches not carrying any weight behind them, and by this point the hulking criminal was just messing with him. He waited until he saw an opening then cracked into the officer's ribs with a flurry of short sharp jabs, ending in a kick that sent him flying back into the alley.

Fang looked over to see how the pinkette was faring and observed the spectacle that met her eyes. She had managed to down two out of three and was circling the final officer standing with malicious intent.

She was absorbed in the moment. She didn't think about how this was a colleague, how they were on the same side. At this point, she only saw red and saw him as a target to be taken out. Flexing her wrist and balling her fingers again, Claire flung her fist out and connected with his neck hard. He blocked her next punch and followed through with a right hook. It connected with her rib cage and she grunted from the impact.

Filled with rage and adrenaline, Farron grabbed his hair and kneed him hard in the stomach. The soft thudding sound of hitting Kevlar contrasted with how heavily she was laying into him. It wasn't doing much damage but she was seeking momentum. Once he had been forced back far enough, with her hand still gripping his hair she pulled down with all her might, smashing him into the stone floor. She finished him off with a kick to the face when he tried to get up and knocked him out cold.

Staggering back and breathing heavy, she could feel the adrenaline running its course, and the burning exhaustion creeping in. Strong tanned arms wrapped around her as her legs gave out, keeping her upright and supporting her weight. "Easy there Sunshine, I think you've more than done your part for the day." Fang's voice said warmly. The Pulsian hissed as she saw the blood on her jeans where the bullet had scraped past her leg. Before she could protest, Claire felt herself being lifted up into Fang's arms as they quickly left the scene in case reinforcements were on their way.

Gadot took the lead through the streets, obviously knowing where they should be headed. "Well, I'm sure you're already well aware by now but this is my long-time associate, friend, brother from another mother and a royal pain in my arse, Gadot Tsu." Fang grinned, still giddy from the afternoon's events.

"I'm Aranea Palazzo. I am honoured to meet such a celebrity, as ordinary as I am." Claire managed to get out with only moderate sarcasm.

"Oh no. No you're not." The brunette carrying her interjected, face firm.

"I beg your pardon Fang?" Claire looked up at Fang, who was shaking her head.

"You don't get to be ordinary anymore. Not after this. You told me that night that you never felt like an Aranea so don't be." The Pulsian appeared serious and determined in her fierce gaze.

"So what am I meant to be then?" Claire replied sardonically.

"You… you move like you've got electricity in your veins in place of blood. You were a rolling storm that struck with intensity… No. You're not Aranea. You never were. From now on, you get to be more. Gadot, this is the newest member of our crew. Our Saviour. Our storm. This is Lightning."

The pinkette couldn't help but be taken aback by the poetic words that came from the usually crass Pulsian's mouth. The name rattled around in Claire's head, striking her at her very centre. She marvelled at how well the name suited her. Ironic that something so meaningful would be gifted to her from one of the most notorious criminals of Eden, but for the moment she forgot about that and let the name settle in her mind.

"Lightning huh? I… I like that."

Chapter Text

"Not much farther to go now." Gadot said as they walked down a few more dark alleys before getting to the central part of the Warrens. The sun had set on a particularly long day, and they were moving through shadowed streets, still keeping an eye out for any stragglers from the SWAT team. Fang was still carrying Lightning, who had resigned herself to the ride but secretly grateful for it.

"Lightning, you were amazing back there. I can't believe how… it's like it's a dance when you fight. It's beautiful." The pinkette stayed quiet but felt colour on her cheeks. Fang gave her a once over and smiled. "Hey, you don't mind me calling you Lightning, do you? It just seems to fit you so much."

"No I… I don't mind. I… prefer it actually." She replied quietly. That wasn't a lie, but a truth that if she thought about it for too long, unsettled her. Fang beamed, flashing her teeth.

"Well good. Let's get inside and get you patched up then."

They had come to a halt in front of an extremely run down building, covered in graffiti and broken windows. Music was coming from inside, along with some basic chatter which suggested that despite appearances it was obviously occupied. "Where are we?" Lightning enquired.

"The divey-est dive bar in Eden. Via Infinito." Gadot replied, opening the door for Fang. Conversation immediately died off and Lightning wondered if it was because she was being carried bridal style into the establishment. A glass shattered as the woman behind the bar dropped it in shock before she vaulted the counter and made a beeline for them.

"You have GOT to be shitting me." The dark-haired bartender exclaimed as she got close. She breezed past Fang and Lightning, settling on launching herself into Gadot's arms and kissing him hard. He lifted her off the ground and spun her around laughing.

"I've missed you too babe." He said, smiling and not letting her go.

Fang gently set Lightning down on a seat next to them and cleared her throat, spreading her arms wide. "Well, where's my welcome back kiss?"

"Oh fuck off Fang." The woman retorted from her position snuggled against Gadot's broad chest, "It's good to see you too. But you're not getting a damn kiss."

"Figures." Fang mocked as she tried to put on the best pout she could manage before relenting with a cheeky grin. "Light, this is Lebreau, Gadot's squeeze and the owner of this establishment. 'Breau, this is Lightning. Our Saviour."

Lebreau slid from the arms of her returned love and sauntered over to take Lightning's hand. "Pleasure darling. Thank you for bringing my man home. And Fang too. I guess."

"Up yours, woman!"

Lightning laughed at Fang being on the back foot for once. She smiled and dipped her head in acknowledgement, as she subtly took in her surroundings. Via Infinito was unlike any bar she had ever been in. It resembled something closer to a bomb shelter lost to history. The walls looked barely held together with patchwork masonry and wooden scaffolding. The bar was decorated with old worn bench tops and rusted metal cupboards. Despite the decor, the place seemed to do well for itself with a small crowd but wasn't too overwhelmingly busy.

"So," Lebreau drawled and raised an eyebrow at the three of them, "Are you lot the reason why I've got Psicom SWAT on my doorstep combing the area and generally messing shit up?" They all nodded sheepishly, finding anywhere else in the bar to look.

"We're gonna need somewhere safe to hole up for a few days until they think we've moved on." Gadot said while wrapping his arm around Lebreau and squeezing gently.

"Yeah yeah. The bunker is still here, it's where I live these days since... You know. There's a spare room that the girls can take upstairs as well."

Lightning went to stand up and winced when pain flared through her calf. She hissed and sat back down, drawing the attention of the others. "Med kit is in its usual place, Fang," Lebreau said gently and gestured out back. Fang nodded, helping Lightning to her feet.

They made their way through the bar, drawing a few odd looks from patrons, but what Lightning noticed was more people that were nodding in acknowledgement or going so far as to raise their glass in a toast. She realised this must be friendly territory for the former gang, which at least meant a safe haven to catch her breath for a moment. Fang kicked the door open to the spare room and helped Lightning over to the double bed before disappearing from the room.

Lightning marvelled at how homey it felt despite the walls being made of iron sheeting and scrap wood. Even though the population of Eden had mostly forgotten and neglected the people of the Warrens, they still found a way to carve out an existence for themselves. Lebreau had hung bright coloured fabrics from the ceiling, and small beaded artefacts were woven around the pillars in the room. Any holes in the walls or gaps were covered with painted metal or wood carvings. It created a mismatched, cluttered feel and yet was still cosy.

The door opening drew the pinkette's attention as Fang re-entered the room with a medical kit in tow. "Alright Sunshine, I am going to need you to remove your pants." She said while somehow managing to maintain an even expression. Fang received a glare in response and shrugged. "Well Light, it's either that or I have to cut your jeans so I can get to the wound on your leg. Your choice." She continued, losing all her usual flirtatious banter and had adopted a surprisingly clinical approach.

Reluctantly Lightning removed her jeans, grimacing slightly as the material scraped the graze on her leg. To her credit, Fang kept her mouth shut about the pale slender legs now gracing her vision and immediately got to work observing the injury. "Doesn't look too bad. Not deep enough to warrant stitches so we can probably get away with just a tidy and a wrap. You'll need to stay off it for the moment though. Also, don't tense for a second."

"Why would I tense for a s-Shit!" Lightning hissed as Fang pressed antiseptic over the wound, cleaning it out before applying pressure with a gauze.

"Sorry love. Better to catch you while you're off guard." Fang offered as she got out a bandage and began wrapping it around Lightning's calf, clipping it off when she was finished. "This place has been in Breau's capable hands since well before I wound up in the Gallies. It was like a second home to us, beyond our old HQ. The Bunker was a small storage room underneath the bar where we'd meet up when we were first starting out. She's since converted it to her apartment so she can be here all the time and keep the other gangs out of here. This room is for her other staff when they work the night shifts."

She patted Lightning's knee and smiled. Now that she was done, Fang could return to her usual nature. She took a long, slow glance up the gorgeous pale legs before her. "Well, not quite how I envisaged getting your gear off but hey I'm not picky, I'll take what I can get!" She ducked when a pillow was thrown at her head from the glaring half-dressed woman.

Fang got off the bed and flicked the lights off, leaving the room in darkness. "We'll sort out the logistics for sleeping later on, in the interim we don't have much to do at this point other than lay low. You've gotta be beyond stuffed Sunshine. Why don't you get some rest? I'll see what I can do in terms of scrounging up some food and bring it up if you like."

She closed the door behind her, leaving Lightning alone with her thoughts. When she was certain that Fang had long since gone downstairs, Lightning flipped open the phone she'd acquired and dialled Serah's number.


"Hey, it's me."

"Claire." Serah breathed down the phone, relief colouring her voice. "You know how you told me not to freak out if I saw you on the news? I'm freaking out."

"I know. I know. I'm sorry. This all kind of…. Escalated." Lightning replied sheepishly.

"Escalated. Really. That's your descriptor of this entire catastrophe. That's a fascinating understatement of the millennium there Claire." Serah's voice was becoming louder and higher pitched the longer she spoke. "Appearing on the evening news in a high-speed, dangerous, guns out chase? Taking on highly armed SWAT in the Warrens? Have you completely lost your MIND?" She shrieked, and Lightning winced as she pulled the phone away from her ear.

"It's ok. I'm safe. I'm not dead yet, Serah. Are you alone?"

"No, Snow's been staying with me since you disappeared." Lightning groaned at the thought of that lummox being in their house. But considering her current position she had little recourse to argue the point. Besides, the man rivalled Gadot in size and strength and was at least fiercely loyal to Serah. Hopefully, he would be able to keep her safe.

"Listen Serah I have to go, figure out how I'm going to get the hell out of this mess I've been landed in. I'll call you when I can ok? If Captain Amodar or anyone from Psicom asks, you haven't heard from me. Got it? "

"Ok," Serah sighed in response, "I am still choosing to freak out but I understand. Please be safe. I love you, sis."

"You too Serah."

Rubbing her face with her hands, the pink-haired woman fell back on the bed and stared at the ceiling. How am I going to get out of this clusterfuck?

Lightning wasn't even aware that she had fallen asleep, but when she checked her phone and saw the time she baulked. It was close to midnight, the room was dark and she was alone. Flicking on the light she found a change of clothes at the foot of the bed and a plate of food on the bedside table. As she munched away at the sandwich that felt like ambrosia to her empty stomach, she gingerly tested the weight on her injured leg. She found she could manage a bit if she limped, but walking normally was probably going to be out of the question for the next couple of days.

After changing into the light cotton pants and tank top she assumed belonged to Lebreau, she slowly made her way downstairs. Lightning found the bar closed and mostly in darkness, save for a light in the back corner where Fang sat with her friends. Lebreau got up and moved to the bar upon her approach, returning with a fresh round of drinks for everyone. The pinkette slid into the booth next to Fang who smiled warmly in greeting and put an arm around her. "How are you feeling Sunshine?"

Lightning nodded a little, feeling tense with the Pulsian's close proximity but went along with it for the time being. After all, she had a role to play. Little steps that made Fang think she was slowly gaining ground would generate far less suspicion. "Better. Thanks for letting me rest." She replied, leaning forward to slowly get out of Fang's grip. She took the offered beer and took a deep drink from the glass, exhaling at how refreshing it was after the utter shitfight of a day they'd had. "So what's next?"

"What's next indeed…" Fang sighed while taking a sip of her own ale. "Gang's gone, HQ got bulldozed in the wake of some shitty luxury apartments, Fal'Cie backed gangs are running the joint and we're pretty much up the proverbial creek without a paddle. I wouldn't even know where to begin."

Lightning frowned. If she was to get out of this she needed more evidence on the Fal'Cie to be able to bury them. That started with the gangs operating under them. "Well, first things first we need information." She offered while staring into her beer. "You two have been out of the loop for the better part of a few years so you're useless…"

"Hey!" Fang piped up in offence, the outrage on her face obvious.

Ignoring her, Lightning looked over at the dark-haired woman across the table who was currently invested in playing with Gadot's fingers. "Lebreau, you've been behind the bar on a constant basis since these two were put away, anything about the lay of the land that could be useful?"

"So you've got your Behemoth Kings, Seraphim and the Children of Etro," Lebreau said with a nod, momentarily interrupted by Fang muttering about stupid gang names. "The BK's are generally the muscle and drug runners of the city. They run your standard protection rackets and push drugs into the city. Seraphim have the corner market on slave trafficking and prostitution, though they do get their hands dirty with the Fal'Cie's wet work when required. The Children of Etro are your money grubbers with illegal casinos, money laundering, insider trading. They all get involved in each other's business but each has their specialities."

Lightning pressed her fingers into the bridge of her nose as she absorbed the information. "Thank you. Do you know of anywhere Fang can set up so she isn't bringing the wrath of the Fal'Cie to your doorstep?"

Lebreau hummed as she thought, scratching her collarbone. Her eyes suddenly lit up. "Actually yeah. There's an underground network of tunnels could be of assistance. They haven't been used since the old war what with the city just building over the top of them. Aside from them being concreted up they could be useful to get in and out of the Warrens without Psicom and the GC on your backs. If you can obtain the maps to the access points and if it isn't already occupied, of course, you'll have yourselves a new home so you can get the hell out of my bar."

Gadot nodded and squeezed her around the waist. "Could be worth a look boss. Clear out any existing tenants or monsters that have made their way in, set up a new HQ down there to keep it clear of this place. D'you think you could ask… You know..?"

Fang nodded and pulled out her phone. "Yeah, I'll put in a call to my little songbird and see what she can get us."

"Ok, so that's at least one thing we can look at," Lightning confirmed, keeping the conversation controlled while trying to figure out who exactly their contact was. "While you two were incarcerated, was there anyone local that you met that would be out by now that we can get in contact with? They may be useful if they're up to date on the current conflicts, gangs movements and all that."

A knock at the door made them all stiffen but Lebreau waved them off and left to answer it.

Gadot looked thoughtful and then nodded with a smile. "I saved this kid, Noel I think his name was. Noel Kreiss. He was getting the shit kicked out of him for mouthin' off about the Children of Etro gang. I think he owes me one and has an axe to grind for that crew. He's out and about, possibly here in the Warrens too from memory. What about you, boss?"

Fang's eyes lit up and she grinned. "Yeah. Pasty angry kid by the name of Paine. She helped with a few of the inside components of Rikku's grand plan to bust me out. If she's running with the blonde bird then she's going to be good value. I trust Rikku with my life."

"Aw! Flattery will get you everywhere Fangy!"

They all turned as Lebreau came back with another person in tow. Dressed in a bright yellow tank top and bomber jacket, with olive green pants covered in patches, a blonde haired woman came into view with a grin that could rival Fang's. "Rikku! You're back!" Fang cried out while leaping over the back of the booth to envelop the petite tanned girl in a hug. "Thought you were out Bikanel way and weren't coming back to town anytime soon?"

"Yeaaah well…" Rikku trailed off, giggling as she was spun by Fang from sheer excitement. "I couldn't have my carefully laid plans executed without me there to witness its glory. You nearly fucked it up causing that mess at the courthouse though!" She prodded a slender finger into the Pulsian's sternum aggressively as she made her point.

"Ow! Yeah, but I couldn't leave Tank to fry you know?" Fang replied with a shake of her shoulders. The small thief relented and tried to puff the wayward hair out of her eyes while still in the grip of strong tanned fingers.

Fang let her go finally and the girl adjusted her hair in the process. "Oi Rikku, you know Paine right?" She asked with a nudge of her hip.

Rikku went bright red and laughed, scratching at her cheek with her index finger. "Yeah, in a manner of speaking… Why?"

Fang narrowed her eyes at her answer. "Cos we need to speak with her. A lot of shit has changed since we've been out for the count and I'm not happy about it. Reckon she'd be keen to get in on this action? You know… If I asked nicely enough?"

The blonde shrugged and smiled mischievously. "I dunno Fang, I wasn't aware that you were capable of being nice in the first place." She teased and ducked out of the way of a rapidly moving hand. Fang glared at her agility and folded her arms defensively.

"I'm plenty nice." She growled, her tone contrasting her words. Rikku put her hands up in surrender and giggled.

"I'm staying with her on the east side of the Warrens at the moment. I was just on the way there when I thought I'd swing in and make sure you're all still breathing. I'll ask and bring her over in the morning. I gotta book but text me when you want to meet up." Rikku said before patting Fang on the cheek and racing out of her reach. She waved to the others and Lebreau escorted her out.

When the bar owner returned she stretched and yawned, looking at the dimly lit empty bar around them. "I think it's a good idea to turn in actually. You guys are right with everything in the spare room?" Fang nodded as Lightning mirrored the dark-haired woman's yawn.

The pinkette couldn't believe how tired she felt despite sleeping all day. Lebreau and Gadot headed out the back of the bar and downstairs to her makeshift apartment, leaving the other two women to ascend to the spare room they were gifted for the evening. It wasn't until they reached the bedroom that the realisation dawned on Lightning about the whole concept.

"Look uh, if you're not comfortable sharing a bed again I can… go find a couch or something.." Fang said awkwardly, scratching at the back of her head. Lightning was once more battling with her mind, trying to reconcile the profiling of Fang that she'd spent hours memorising with this nervous woman in front of her attempting to be chivalrous.

"Don't worry about it." Lightning said with a tired voice, waving her hand dismissively. "It's been a long enough day for both of us without having to worry about sleeping arrangements. We've already shared a bed back in the Gallies, and you've proven you can keep your hands to yourself." She collapsed onto the mattress with a yawn.

Fang was a little slower clambering into bed, and Lightning's breath hitched when the Pulsian finally settled in, closer to the pinkette due to the smaller bed. That and they weren't sleeping on a mattress sideways to share. "Are you… Sure this is ok?" Fang asked hesitantly.

"It's fine." Lightning said a little too quickly, grateful that the darkness hid her flushed face. They laid in silence for a while, just absorbing the day before Fang spoke up again.

"So uh, what's next for you Sunshine?"

Lightning paused a moment, thinking over her next words. "I'm not sure, to be honest. I need to wait until the heat dies down so I can get back to Bodhum safely. Probably pack my sister up and go somewhere far."

"Well, you're welcome to stay here and kick it with us in the meantime if you're not familiar with the area."

"… May as well."

Silence descended between them, and the pinkette realised Fang had very quickly gone to sleep.

Lightning exhaled with a sigh. It had been just over three weeks and Fang, while forward and endlessly frustrating, also exhibited signs of loyalty, caring and compassion which threw Lightning off her game. I'm sure I'll get to see her true colours now that she's free and about to go on a rampage… She thought with a hint of disgust. Lightning shook her head and rolled over, focusing on her breathing until she too fell asleep.

Fang awoke slowly and gently in the dim grey light before dawn. She was an early riser from a young age, and a late night wouldn't change that. She carefully got out of bed so as not to disturb Lightning, and padded out to the bathroom to shower. She came back afterwards to grab her phone, towel still slung around her neck. There was a message notification flashing, and she hoped it hadn't woken Light.

"Outside, in the old park. Twenty minutes."

Grabbing a hooded sweater from the cupboard, Fang pulled it over her head and quickly left the building as quietly as she could manage. Completely unaware that Lightning was wide awake and dressed under the blankets, ready to follow.

As Fang wound through the narrow streets and alleys, she kept feeling like she was being tailed but every time she would double back or get a vantage point to look behind her, there would be no evidence of anyone following her. Just the persistent nagging feeling that dogged her even as she reached her destination.

What was left of an old park loomed ahead, and Fang slowed down to a gentle pace. It was overgrown and ruined by time and neglect, a constant reminder for the people of the Warrens that they are just as forgotten and left behind. She growled to herself as she looked at the dilapidated state of things, vowing that she'd rob the first bank she came across so that she could pay someone to fix the place up.

A small figure stood by the fountain ruins, wearing dark jeans and a dark blue-dyed leather jacket. A purple scarf was pulled up and used as a wrap in the same fashion that Fang was using the hood of her jumper to obscure her identity. Fang attempted to restrain herself as best she could, but still couldn't help the smile adorn her features as she came up and stood next to the secretive individual.

"Not that I can see much under that scarf, but by bloody Etro, it's good to see ya darlin'." The shorter of the two turned, red locks peeking out from beneath the scarf. They chanced a brief but tight hug before separating and sitting next to each other on the fountain's edge.

"It's… good to see you. Though really Fang? A prison break?"

Fang shrugged looking a little embarrassed. "I had shit to do. Look at what's happened to this place in our absence?" She gestured at the expansive degradation of their surroundings. "How's your boss taking it?"

The redhead rolled her eyes. "About as well as you can expect. Tifa's gone to ground I'm guessing, and Gadot, of course, would be with you…. But the pink-haired one… Aranea Palazzo? She used to run for the Valefor gang out of Bodhum... Typical rap sheet… Grand theft auto, assault, armed weapons charges, possession. I can't find a lot on her though Fang, and that's usually a bad sign. She's a newcomer and I don't know if you can trust her."

Fang shrugged, appreciative of the redhead's protective streak. "I don't either but she's amazing. A fierce fighter, amazing driver, skilled tactician… she's beautiful… She's…"

"Followed you I see."

"Hm?" Fang followed the trail of her eyes over to the opposite corner of the park, where she could see a skerrick of pale pink hair poking out from behind a wall. Now suddenly the persistent feeling of being watched made sense. She was impressed, albeit mildly annoyed that the pale woman was able to remain undetected the whole way over. "Good spot 'Nille. Wanna go meet her?" She leapt from the seat and made her way over to where Lightning was hiding. She approached the wall quietly and leaned around. "Bit early for you isn't it Sunshine?"

"Gah!" Lightning was startled and dove forward, ungracefully tripping over her own feet and tumbling into the dirt.

Fang shook her head and helped her up with a tug of her hand. Not prepared for how strong Fang was, she overbalanced and landed straight into the taller Pulsian, bumping into her chest. Lightning scowled and backed away immediately, dusting herself off. Fang folded her arms and gave the woman a once-over with a raised eyebrow. "So Lightning, you mind tellin' me what the deal is with the tail?"

The pinkette blushed and looked at the ground while she took a small step back. "I… with everything that happened yesterday… I wanted to make sure you were ok, but I didn't want to intrude on your conversation. So I… I kept my distance so you could have your privacy."

The redhead approached and appeared to the side of Fang. She regarded the pale haired woman and watched her face and movements carefully. She seemed almost... Embarrassed? At being caught or for intruding? The smaller girl couldn't tell. She stuck out her hand, startling the pinkette. "Hi, I'm Vanille Dia. Lovely to meet you. I assume you have a name other than what my sister is calling you?"

Sister. Shit.

Vanille's voice was deliberately cheery but calm and Farron knew she was being sized up. There was nothing chirpy behind that highly scrutinizing stare. Lightning took her hand and shook it, gently but confident. "I do, it's Aranea Palazzo but…. I prefer Lightning. Your sister gave me the name and it… Felt right."

Fang's eyebrows raised at the pinkette's honesty, her cheeks becoming heated at her words. She was thankful for her tan as it hid most of it, but nothing snuck past Vanille. "Aaanyway," The redhead continued, "Fang I have to get going. Here's the data you asked for, but please keep your head down for five minutes for the love of Etro… I mean it. No craziness. I really don't want to have to wind up on the task force that has to hunt you down again. That will make things… awkward."

Task… Force..? A creeping dread began to rise up Lightning's spine.

The two siblings hugged again before Vanille gave one last long piercing look at the pinkette. "I look forward to seeing you again Lightning. Try to keep my sister safe in the meantime." She adjusted the scarf and skipped off into the growing crowds. Lightning felt the undertone of Vanille's words despite their sunny disposition. It was less a request and more a threat.

Fang scratched the back of her head as she watched her sister walk away. "Yeah. So that's my sister 'Nille. Makes it a little awkward for us to spend time together when she works for Psicom."

Lightning paled and felt sick to her stomach. "What do you mean she works for Psicom?" She said breathlessly, desperately working to keep her voice level and controlled. This could not get any more complicated if it tried, and Lightning was getting sick of the constant feeling of being off-balance.

Fang gestured for them to head back to Lebreau's bar, and they began meandering through the growing morning crowds at a leisurely pace to accommodate for Lightning's leg injury. "She works in their data crimes division. No front line work thankfully. Spends her days behind a computer. Obviously, makes things hard considering our… Polar opposite lines of work but still." They continued on through the streets, silence descending on them.

Internally, Lightning was panicking; if Vanille dug deep enough she'd figure out pretty quickly that the profiles in the database are nothing more than setups. She looked towards the Pulsian and remembered her cold stare when she discovered the last undercover cop back in the Gallies. If Claire was found out, it was highly likely she wouldn't survive the confrontation. She swallowed hard and dipped her head.

"I… Apologise if I overstepped my boundaries this morning Fang. I didn't mean to intrude on your time with your sister… I just, after yesterday I didn't want… Um… I didn't want you to get hurt." She said quietly, head bowed. Fang looked over at the deflated appearance and put an arm around her.

"Don't worry about it Sunshine. It's… Nice that you care. Admittedly, it does freak me the fuck out that you were able to follow me without me spotting you. But your heart was in the right place. Maybe just tell me next time?" She replied, watching the shift in Lightning's mood. The pinkette nodded and looked up at Fang through her pale fringe.

"Listen, you head back to Lebreau's, I'm gonna go scope some breakfast for us and get myself a new pair of pants in the process. The randomly placed hole on my leg is annoying me." Lightning said as she tucked a stray hair behind Fang's ear, startling the brunette. "Can you… wait for me before we head into the tunnels? I want to be there to help."

Fang nodded enthusiastically, smiling at the brief gesture that sent shivers skittering down her spine. She wasn't sure that the pink-haired woman was even aware of her actions. Fang turned to leave the alley with a lazy salute. "Of course, Sunshine. Pick us up some coffee while you're out and about yeah? I take mine with cream and a shitload of sugar." She waved a farewell and jogged away with an obvious spring in her step.

Once she was out of sight Lightning slumped to the alley floor and leant back against the wall. "Shit. Shit shit shit. What have I gotten myself into?"

"Gotta hand it to you, Farron. You're clearly an adrenaline junkie with the way you dove head first into this complete mess."

"Oh go fuck yourself, Rygdea."

"Still," Rygdea pondered while scratching the scruff on his face. "This just further complicates the shit out of things for you though Farron." His sunglasses thankfully hid his mischievous glances. His lackadaisical approach made Lightning want to punch him in the face.

"I know, I know.. Too late for that now." Lightning threw her hands in the air with an exasperated sigh. The two were seated outside a café on the edge of the warrens, with Rygdea looking casual in a brown leather jacket and button shirt. He'd received a frantic call for assistance from the lieutenant earlier and had raced over to try to settle her nerves.

Lightning pointed at her handler firmly with a set jaw. "Her sister, she has a way of getting into Psicom files. You need to make sure the profiles on me are iron clad and there's no record of me as Ligh-Claire Farron in the database. Build an associated profile, different ID so it doesn't look like a bunch of data has been dumped suddenly."

Rygdea frowned and rubbed his face with his hands. "Can't believe she's got access to our databases. Hell, I can't believe she's even got a sister. Did you get a look at her? Could you ID her?"

Lightning shook her head. "No I didn't I'm afraid, I was too far away and she was disguised." The pinkette wasn't sure why she was keeping Vanille's identity safe, but she didn't feel right outing the young girl. Rygdea shrugged and stirred at his coffee.

"At any rate, I've got something for you. This is between us though, don't say a word about it to Nabaat or Raines." He warned as he handed over a folder. "Children of Etro backed bank. Lots of dirty money in there. If that gets taken out it'll severely cripple the gang's ability to move about financially."

Lightning looked the details over and frowned. From blueprints to guard formations, account holders and alarm codes. The level of detail was impressive and yet, it made her suspicious. "Why give me this?" She asked, watching him carefully.

Rygdea smirked and leant in close. "Because Farron… You gotta break a few eggs you know? It'll further boost your cred with Yun Fang, plus it'll help get us some momentum in the crimes division. You'll fuck up one of the gang's cash flow in the process, you'll give NORA some standing to draw some people of interest out of hiding. Everyone wins." He said, drinking what was left of his coffee and wiping his mouth. Lightning looked at him curiously, wondering where the perpetual thorn in her side fit into all this.

"What about Jihl?"

He sighed, knowing the question was coming. "This hasn't been on her list of priorities despite us having all of the info ready to go for months. It's been… Bugging me I guess. Look. I know it's not entirely above board to give this to you knowing it will give NORA a foothold into Eden again, but something has to be done about this gang and quite frankly? I'm tired of waiting. At this point, Fang is the lesser of several evils."

Lightning couldn't help but feel conflicted. She did enjoy showing the commander up, especially if it pissed her off in the process. But still. Between Jihl, Cid and now Rygdea, everyone seemed to have their own agenda, their own end goals and she was just being used as a pawn for all of them.

"So basically despite the dubious ethical issues with letting me use my current position to skip the red tape of proper process, you want me to shut this bank down with the help of NORA which will help both of us at the same time, right?" She surmised, putting the pieces together. He nodded with a grin and she rolled her eyes.

"I better head back Rygdea. I've been gone long enough." Lightning said as she stood up to leave.

He nodded in response and clapped his hand on her shoulder. "Remember to keep your head about you Farron… Make it believable and you'll live longer." With a final pat on her back, he stood back to let her leave.

"Asshole.." She muttered as she walked off, tucking the documents in a pocket.

From across the road, Fang watched her leave with narrowed eyes.

"Hey, I'm back." Lightning walked through the doorway carrying a tray of coffees and a bag of food. Sporting the new black slim jeans she'd located from a vendor, she made her way over to the table where everyone sat and put her goods down. Everyone reached for a coffee offering their gratitude. When she slid into the booth, Fang appeared from the back, shifting in next to her. She wrapped an arm around Lightning's waist, pulling the pinkette even closer to her.

"So what's the plan?" Lightning asked as she casually batted Fang's hand away while sipping at her black coffee. Fang smiled and grabbed a pastry from the bag.

"Well, Vanille was kind enough to get us the maps and access codes to the old tunnel network, so no need to blow through walls. Once we are in we can rewrite the codes. We're meeting Rikku and Paine down there. You wanna head off?" the pinkette nodded in response and the three of them left after finishing breakfast and giving Lightning time to rest her leg.

They made their way to their destination an abandoned building in one of the back streets of the Warrens in the industrial district. Rikku and Paine were already waiting for them by the entrance when they arrived. The blonde waved the three of them over, while the other woman leant up against the wall smoking a cigarette. She was almost as tall as Fang, with short silvery hair and piercing red eyes that stood out from her complexion. She was dressed almost entirely in black save for the white leather motorcycle jacket she sported.

Gadot looked around at the building as they approached. "Well, this looks... Homey." He said while Fang gave her trademark grin and received a fist bump from Rikku.

"Hey, Rikku. Thanks for meeting us here. Paine. Lovely to see ya again in the fresh air darlin'. Hope to have you on board with us." The silver-haired woman simply nodded in her direction but otherwise said nothing. "Rikku, Paine, this is my new associate Lightning," Fang said as she continued her introductions. The pinkette kept silent but dipped her head in acknowledgement as well.

"Like two fuckin' peas in a pod…" Fang muttered while rolling her eyes, and kicked open the door to the building, entering with a gun drawn.

As they made their way through the building down winding stairs, Fang was giving an impromptu history lesson. "Yeah, this place we're headed to used to be a Bunker during the war a few generations ago. They just built Eden on top of it when they were done. Potentially, the tunnels can stretch to every corner of Eden, making it perfect for us."

They all came to a halt before giant steel doors that blocked their path. Spying a keypad nearby, Fang wandered over and pulled out the papers Vanille had given her. "Let's hope the info is good..." She muttered as she punched in the first code. Metal screeched as the doors groaned to life, slowly parting to reveal another set of doors behind.

"Fucks sake what is this? Doors within doors.." Fang growled. Lightning appeared close beside her and sighed.

"It's a blast shield, Fang. Could come in handy. We can oil up the doors so they'll close a bit faster if we ever need to go into lockdown." She replied with a prod of the tanned arm next to her.

Fang leaned into Lightning, revelling in her warmth and subtle scent for a moment before punching in another code. There was a loud click and a beep as the door was unlocked, granting them all entrance as the emergency lights flickered on automatically.

"Holy shit," Rikku said with wide eyes.

The group stared in amazement at the scene before them. Where they expected a rusted metal bunker, they found polished stone and old world architecture. The two-storey open room was certainly run down and dusty from being sealed for several generations it was still relatively intact. Junk scrap covered the floor and doors were hanging off their hinges. There were remnants of old furniture hidden beneath plastic covering and hopefully it was salvageable.

"This… is going to be amazing." Fang breathed as she couldn't stop the giant grin enveloping her features. She descended the stairs two at a time with the group following close behind her. They split up, Rikku and Paine heading in one direction, Gadot in another, leaving Fang and Lightning to head down and investigate their new surroundings.

They moved through the halls with only the dim glow from the emergency lighting and the torch function on their phones. They stopped at a junction that splintered off into what looked like a garage, and a library.

Lightning jumped when she felt a tanned hand slide around her waist. "By Etro… Light, this place is incredible." Fang whispered, her voice still bouncing off the walls regardless. "Can you imagine what we could do with this place if we had the resources?"

A loud hum reverberated through the hallway and suddenly everything was illuminated. "Huh. Rikku and Paine must have found the generators." Fang observed, squeezing Lightning's hand.

The pinkette battered the hand away, becoming increasingly perplexed at the repeated casual touching from the forward Pulsian. "By resources, you mean money right?" Lightning queried as she fished around in her pocket. "That reminds me, I have a present for you."

Fang's eyes lit up and Lightning couldn't help but smile at the goofy expression. She handed the documents over and watched as the Pulsian looked over them. Her eyebrows rose up in shock as she stared up at the pink-haired woman. "A Children of Etro ran gang bank… Talk about your ultimate payday... Holy shit, blueprints, profiles, guard rotations... Light this is incredible!"

Lightning shrugged and tried to appear as indifferent as possible as she coughed nervously. "I have a few contacts in these parts myself, I made a few calls and met with one of them while I was waiting for coffee this morning."

She squeaked as Fang wrapped her in a hug, startling her. A throat clearing behind them gave them a moment to pause, and the Pulsian slowly tilted her head until Rikku and Paine came into her view. "Can I help you?" Fang asked with a little bit of annoyance of the interruption.

Rikku rolled her eyes. "If you guys can hit the pause button on… whatever it is you two are doing for five freaking seconds, we've found the control centre to change the passcodes on all the access tunnels as well as the main hall." The shorter blonde woman supplied while handing over a tablet to Fang. The Pulsian took it with one arm still wrapped around Lightning possessively, bringing her away from the wall.

Paine cast her eyes over Lightning, giving the woman a once over before looking back at Fang. "We found some archives as well, looks like this place was renovated about fifty years ago to an underground speakeasy for one of the old gangs, hence the more opulent surroundings. So we get to benefit from their need to spruce the joint up so it doesn't look like a rusted military barracks."

"We?" Fang queried with a smile, "Does this mean Rikku's talked you into the party?"

Paine shrugged and allowed the smallest of rare smiles to grace her features. "Well… If you fix this place up and chuck a couple of stripper poles in here I'm down."

Lightning scoffed at the suggestion as Fang considered it. "I wouldn't object to that at all.." She mused, trailing nails along the pinkette's side. She shivered and whacked the Pulsian.

"Stop that. We've got business to attend to. Where's Gadot?" Lightning queried while untangling herself from a pouting Fang. She called him on his phone and within a few minutes, the looming man appeared through the doorway.

"Place is clear boss, aside from the local wildlife in some of the tunnels there's nobody else down here."

"Excellent," Fang replied, clapping her hands in excitement, "Now Sunshine here has leveraged some of her own contacts to get us the resources to fix this joint up." She passed the documents around to the others and continued. "This bank is run by the Children of Etro…. Fucks sake that is still a stupid name for a gang… We hit them and not only do we collect a whole mess of cash that we can put back into this place, but we can also fuck up their cash flow and piss 'em off something royally. Gadot, reckon your mate Noel will be in with this?"

"A chance to fuck with that gang? Absolutely. I gotta go meet him later today but let's assume he's down for it."

An idea formed in Lightning's head from her earlier conversation with Rygdea… While morally ambiguous to use her current position to get around certain… "Procedural requirements", she could still use it to hers, and Eden's advantage. While she was here she could always just do whatever she could to better the city and write it off as part of the job. Raines did say she had immunity from prosecution while undercover after all.

She gently touched Fang's arm to get her attention. "I was thinking… Depending on how much we land from this heist, what if we started to fix up the Warrens as well? You said this was your neighbourhood and it all went to hell after NORA collapsed. We could fortify it and create new business, new opportunity, new protection and we would get the people on side. Would make it harder for cops to infiltrate the Warrens if we effectively own them."

Fang looked contemplative as she considered the plan. "That's actually a brilliant idea Light. We'd probably get more people joining us as well as a bonus." She beamed at Lightning's tactical brilliance.

Turning to her friends, she eyed her right-hand man and high-fived him as Rikku gestured for them to follow to give them a tour of what she'd found with Paine.

Fang hung back for a moment, folding her arms and regarded the pale-haired woman. Lightning turned and raised an eyebrow.

"So that was who you met with earlier? Back at the café?" Fang asked while stepping closer into her space. Lightning paled and swallowed hard. Her head dropped as she avoided the piercing jade eyes.

"You followed me. I guess I deserved that after this morning huh?" She said with a wistful smile, trying not to be annoyed that Fang had done exactly the same thing she did earlier. "I… Wanted to make it up to you somehow, to show that I can be… resourceful."

Lightning felt her head tilted up by her chin and saw jade eyes staring with a firm gaze. Her face felt hot under the scrutiny. "After our conversation last night about needing information I asked him to come down if he had any goods that could be of use to you. Fang, I... Want to stay with you. See how this all unfolds."

The Pulsian looked to be in thought for a moment and Lightning held her breath. "You're an odd duck Palazzo, but I rate ya. This info is good. The Valefor gang might be long gone by now but I'm glad you've still managed to keep your network going. But you mean it? You wanna stick around?"

Lightning nodded, exhaling with relief at the narrowest of bullets dodged. Fang gave a lop-sided smirk and slung a casual arm back around the pale neck. "What's say you Sunshine? Ready to bring NORA back to Eden?"

Chapter Text

The following morning Lightning and Fang sat within the Eden First National Bank dressed in three piece suits. Lightning tugged at the tie to loosen it and groaned. "I get that we needed to not walk in here dressed in our usual casual attire but why the suits?"

Fang grinned and brushed her hair over her shoulder. "Because Sunshine… If we're about to make a grand entrance, I want to look goooood while doing it." She stood up and opened the briefcase she was carrying, pulling out an automatic rifle. "Showtime."

Firing into the air, the bank erupted into a chaotic scene of screaming customers and diving bank tellers. "Good morning ladies and gentlemen! Now I know this is a tad inconvenient before your morning coffees but if we could all just form an orderly and calm line we can get this over with."

"Do you even know who you're robbing?" One of the tellers yelled angrily as he slammed his hand on a button near his desk. "The Children of Etro will be swarming this place in seconds you stupid fucks!"

"Oh Darlin', I'm counting on it." Fang purred in response as she checked her surroundings. She spied Rikku and Paine sneaking out back to get to the vaults and grinned. Gadot and Noel were already seated in the balcony above at the ready. The sound of screeching tires filled the hall as multiple vehicles braked hard out the front of the bank.

About fifteen armed to the teeth Children of Etro gang members spilt into the bank and immediately opened fire. Lightning dove out of the way, sliding over a desk and tipping it over to provide some cover.

"So what's the plan here? How much time do R&P need?" Gadot's voice crackled over their communicators they'd snagged from the bunker's storage rooms.

"Just enough to get the safe open. We make sure these arseholes don't get to them." Fang yelled as she returned fire, with a keen hunter's eye she managed to drop two of the thugs in seconds.

"In the interim, we just shoot all these motherfuckers then?" Came Gadot's hopeful reply came through the comms.

"Pretty much."

Glass rained down on where Lightning was crouched as a few gangsters opened fire at the teller glass behind her. She winced as some of the shards cut her skin. Lightning wiped at a small cut down the side of her face and shot a burst of suppressing fire over the table. She counted the shots until she knew they needed to reload and took her opportunity.

The pinkette leapt over the desk with her two handguns drawn, firing a burst of shots exploding the scene around the bank's backup. Two bullets struck one in the leg, and another in the shoulder. Fang looked over from her vantage point and saw Lightning's face. It was fixed in a fierce deadly expression and covered in blood from the cut on her cheek. She looked terrifying and beautiful all at once, and Fang loved it.

The Pulsian fired a volley of shots wildly about the gang, making them scatter for cover. It gave Lightning enough time to race over and vault over the railing, landing gracefully beside her. "Goddess, you look like a damned Valkyrie Light.." She took the pinkette by the face and cleared some of the blood away with her thumb, catching Lightning off guard.

"Is now really the time to be trying your luck Fang?" Lightning yelled, looking perplexed.

"Now is the best time." Fang replied with a lick of her lips as she fired over the railing without looking, taking out two more thugs by the teller. "Clearly Lady Luck is on my side today Sunshine, wouldn't you agree?"

Lightning growled at her arrogance and fired a volley of shots so that they could move into a better position. As the situation escalated she had less time to line up her shots to disable the goons. Narrowly avoiding a burst of gunfire, she was pinned between cover points and quickly realised it was either her or them.

Lightning reacted purely on instinct, returning fire and hitting one gang member in the neck, and a second in the chest. She felt time slow down as she was running for cover, watching the men fall to the ground dead. Everything came back in a rush as they vaulted over a planter box for cover. Gadot and Noel were above them upstairs, taking pot shots with rifles, picking off the Children of Etro one by one.

"Rikku can you do anything to cut their communications so they can't call for any more reinforcements?" Gadot called out.

"Please. Do you think this is my first dance? It's already taken care of." The curt reply came down the receiver.

"How much longer kiddo?" Fang asked while hitting another thug in the face with the butt of her gun.

"We're in, just loading up now."

"Alright sports fans, let's wrap this shit up and get the fuck out of here!" The Pulsian yelled as she patted the pinkette on the shoulder to get her attention. Lightning whirled around, adrenaline setting her senses on fire, and all she could hear was a terrible ringing in her ears cutting underneath every sound.

Fang narrowed her eyes as if recognising something in the pinkette's movements. The brilliant blue of her irises were further highlighted by the pinpoints of her pupils, and she looked on edge, beyond the usual heat of the moment. She nodded solemnly and squeezed her shoulder. "Let's get it done Sunshine," Fang said quietly. The pink-haired woman swallowed hard and nodded in acknowledgement, otherwise staying quiet.

Fang and Lightning leapt over the railing in complete sync, firing into the remaining gang members still standing. Noel and Gadot appeared at their side with guns still at the ready, and they all made their way downstairs.

As Lightning passed the bank teller who'd hit the alarm, he looked at them with a seething hatred. "You have no idea what you've done. They will bury you for this. Psicom will catch you."

"I'd like to see them try," Fang replied sarcastically with a roll of her eyes.

"Psicom will stop at noth-gah!" The teller slumped forward as Fang smacked him hard across the face with her gun.

"Chatty little bastard isn't he?"

Lightning frowned, her instincts screaming that they were missing something. Why was he saying Psicom and not the gang?

"Fang, how much time do we have before the GC gets here?"

"Not long, we've gotta book."

"There's something I need to grab. I'll meet you downstairs."

Lightning ran off in the opposite direction amidst Fang's protests. She found the bank manager's office and let herself in, racing around the desk to find his computer. She ripped it from the wall and pried it open, carefully removing the hard drive. Before she left she grabbed the manager's appointment diary as well and then ran downstairs to join the others. They were already in the truck, with Fang hanging out the back with an arm outstretched towards her.

"Light! We gotta go now!" She grabbed her wrist and hauled the pinkette into the car, who immediately made for the driver's seat.

"Out." Lightning said curtly and gestured at Rikku.

Before the blonde could protest, Fang piped up from the back while locking the doors. "Do it kiddo, our Lightning has some serious skills."

Rikku relinquished her position at the wheel and went up the back to strap herself in. Fang took the passenger seat next to her, but not before kissing her on her bloodied cheek. "Let's put on a show for our comeback tour shall we?"

Lightning rolled her eyes and revved the engine, roaring out of the underground carpark to immediate gunfire. Fang was listening to the police chatter over the wire, while bringing up the map of the underground tunnel network. "Shit yes!" She yelled while punching the roof of the truck in excitement. "There's a tunnel entrance not too far from here if you can get enough distance between us so they lose their line of sight we can vanish without a trace."

Noel smiled and leant out a side window, aiming his rifle behind them. "Keep it steady Lightning, I only get one shot at this before I'm out of ammo." Moving his scope in range of some of the balconies in the streets above them, he let off a perfectly timed shot that hit one of the support beams. The entire structure collapsed onto the road, hitting one of the pursuing vehicles and causing it to spin out.

"Haha! Nice shot Kreiss!" Gadot cheered as he clapped the smaller man on the back. "That enough distance for ya Fang?"

"Plenty! Ok, sunshine get ready and take your next right."

Lightning turned the wheel and banked hard into a narrow street. The van barely fit, smashing into a dumpster and sending Noel tumbling to the floor. "Sorry!" The pinkette yelled as she slid around a corner at the end of the street, avoiding a blockade that had been set up by the local GC. The police opened fire on the van, smashing out the windows and causing a few of the group to curse.

"Nice excursion you've got me on here Gadot, I'm going to be picking glass out of my skin for a week." Noel muttered as he tried to get back up off the floor.

"Left! Take the next left down that alley!" Fang yelled, pointing at a gap between a couple of buildings. Lightning complied with the directions and found them hurtling down a dead end.

"Just keep driving straight ahead." Fang assured her.

"Uh Fang.."

"Just keep going!"

"It's a fucking dead end, Fang!" Lightning yelled as she gripped the wheel harder.

Fang grinned and pushed a button. "No it ain't."

The building wall suddenly split and opened inwards, with a long descending tunnel lighting up on the vehicle's approach. As the van sped through, the walls sealed back up. Lightning began to slow down to a more leisurely pace as everyone cheered.

Fang leant over placed a hand on her shoulder. "You OK love?" The brunette asked quietly. Lightning only nodded, the adrenaline tapering out left her exhausted, and the pain from the cut on her cheek was starting to resurface. The Pulsian seemed to understand without her needing to explain though, and simply squeezed Lightning's shoulder gently.

"We'll get you fixed up and something to drink when we get back yeah? You did good today Sunshine. I'm real proud of ya."

The hot water was steaming up the bathroom as Lightning stepped under the water. After the initial hiss of pain as the water hit her wounds, it subsided into a dull throb while she rinsed herself off.

She was dumbfounded. In a matter of hours, they had managed to completely mess with the financials of one of the largest gangs in Eden, a move that will surely impact significantly on their operations. The organised crime unit hadn't even gotten a score like that on their board in the years they've been trying to take them down. There was something obviously intoxicating about the lack of oversight, and could now see why Rygdea gave her the info. A part of Lightning wondered how much more she could get away with while undercover.

She turned the water off and stepped out of the shower, drying herself thoroughly. Everything happened so quickly this afternoon, she delved into instinct and just reacted. Now that things were calm, she had a moment to reflect. Lightning knew what she was getting herself into with the job, but the reality of it still hit hard and unsettled her.

In law enforcement you were expected to only draw your weapon as an absolute last resort, there was that much paperwork and so many inquiries it was often better to resolve a situation without the need for the gun, even when it was warranted. But here she couldn't play by those rules and had to go in practically shooting from the hip.

Feeling uncertain and numb, Lightning played with the fabric of the towel and worried her lip as her heart raced. She looked at her hands and flexed her fingers a few times while trying to get her breathing under control.

A knock at the door startled her and she gasped, wrapping the towel around her as tight as she could. "You alright in there Sunshine?" The voice called out from behind the door. Lightning yanked the door open and stared coldly at the Pulsian on the other side.

"What do you want Fang?" She asked with a tired sigh, not interested in conversation.

"I'm here to check up on you."

"I'm fine, so leave me to get dressed." She brushed past the brunette, but was halted by a hand around her arm.

"Oh no you don't. I'm not stupid you know. I've been doing this far too long to be oblivious to this." She pulled Lightning close, still gripping her arm. The pinkette swallowed hard, and paled.

"W-What is that supposed to mean?" She asked, trying to keep her cool. Fang's eyes softened a little and her grip loosened. The brunette smiled gently and sat on the bed.

"I was a hunter before this, back in my home town you know? Ever since I could walk I had a lance in my hands. My home, the village, they were all about the Hunter's Way. A set of laws about balance, about providing for the family, about doing what was necessary for survival. But no matter how young or old someone was, they always had the same haunted look in their eyes the first time they took a life."

How easily does this woman read me? Lightning thought with a frown. She swallowed hard and looked away. "It's fine Fang. A target's a target."

"Except they're not, at least not to you. Like I said, I've been doing this a long damn time Light. I saw how you were aiming for their arms and legs at first. Disabling shots. When things got more heated you reacted on instinct and they became more lethal. I've seen your rap sheet Sunshine, courtesy of Vanille. Murder isn't on your list so unless you're really good at keeping that off the record, this is the first time you've killed someone." Fang turned away from her and gestured to the pinkette that she could get changed. "I won't peek I promise."

Lightning hurriedly got dressed, still partially hiding under the towel because she didn't trust Fang's intentions towards her at all, the silence once again broken by the brunette.

"Look. You can deny it all you want but your eyes don't lie. I'm... Here to listen, if you need to talk. Or want to. When it hits you, and it will, don't go through it alone." Fang said as she stood, brushing her jeans to smooth them out. "Listen, this is an apartment off the main hall, it'll be my digs and one of the few places a bed is set up until we get the rest of it up to scratch. You can stay here if you want."

"You're awfully keen to constantly share a bed with me, Yun."

Fang laughed and scratched the back of her head, a tell that Lightning had learned meant she was nervous. "Nah, I just figured you needed a bit of space. I can scrape something together outside. The others are going back to Lebreau's once they finished counting out the spoils. We'll be downstairs in the main hall if you want to join us."

Lightning nodded in acknowledgement as Fang left the room. With silence now settling in, she pulled out her datapad and set up a secure line to type up a report.

Field Report

Casefile 5839-233 DC assignment

Initial plans to infiltrate in prison were altered when subject Yun broke out of the facility with another inmate in tow. Was forced to either stay behind and risk losing target, or tag along and provide a viable source to re-capture. Yun Fang claims to have no knowledge of codename Titan's whereabouts, and there is evidence of hostility between them.

It was suggested by a gang resource to hit a local Eden bank that was under the control and financial backing of the Children of Etro, which was pulled off successfully at 0945 this morning. Multiple casualties from the CoE gang. the remnants of NORA along with several associates (Files attached) have made off with a sizeable sum of money which will surely cripple the operations of the Fal'Cie backed gang.

Observations of Yun Fang are an enormous propensity for violence and recklessness, little to no regard for consequences or law, and has disdain towards protocol. However she shows signs of fierce loyalty to her associates such as Gadot Tsu, and evidence of marginal compassion towards anyone sympathetic to her cause. Early signs of Yun Fang looking to establish herself as the new leader of NORA are concerning.

I believe we will be able to discern the location of Titan regardless of the animosity between the two, NORA's resurgence and taking out a high profile target will likely bring him out of hiding.

The added intel on this FAL'CIE syndicate requires further investigation, which will start by exploring the gangs connected to them. Preliminary data recovered from the bank suggests they have wound themselves into local infrastructure, potentially including and not limited to law enforcement, government and public services.

Lightning sent the report to Rygdea, and pressed a button which wiped the report from her tablet. Rolling her shoulders to stretch out the stiffness setting in, she left the room to investigate what was happening downstairs.

Fang's voice could be heard before Lightning even rounded the corner. "Come on come on surely you have a figure by now, what was the score?"

"Shut UP Fang! You make me lose count and I'll start over!" Rikku whined and threw a bundle of notes at her face.

"Twenty-seven." Paine's voice rang out, silencing the room.

"Twenty-seven what?"


"Well, fuck." Fang sat down on the couch, looking dumbfounded.

"Some of it is in notes, the rest is in bullion and bearer bonds. Give or take a few hundred thousand but I really can't be bothered counting anymore." Fang took the bundle of cash that Rikku had lobbed at her previously and flipped through it. There was at least twenty thousand in gil in the stack.

She leapt up and tackled the two girls, knocking them off the table and onto the floor. She laughed maniacally and grabbed Rikku's face first, kissing her excitedly followed by Paine before either could react. Lightning ignored the small pang of jealousy that flashed through her mind.

"You girls. You amazing fucking women. You… Arrrgh! I can't believe this!" She threw the money up in the air and let it rain down on them. Rikku and even Paine couldn't help but laugh and join in, throwing more cash at Fang.

"Not that I wish to intrude on this mature display," Lightning piped up with a clearing of her throat, "But how exactly are we going to be spending this money?" Fang tucked a couple of wads of cash down Paine's top with a wink.

"You go buy your lady here something nice yeah?" She said and leapt up, offering a hand to help the two women up from the floor. "First? Drinks. Then probably sleep. Then gotta go see the Fence to do a bit of cleaning. Then probably getting contractors in from outside of Eden that can start fixing this place up. But first definitely drinks. So let's pack this up and head off to Lebreau's yeah?" They all started packing up the money into the bags and took them to the secure storage room, locking it up for safe keeping.

Fang jogged over to Lightning and put an arm around her shoulder. The pinkette flinched at the contact, causing her to withdraw her arm. "Sorry, didn't mean to startle you. Let's head up to go see 'Breau yeah? I'm buying." Fang said with a smirk as she waved a bundle of notes in front of her.

"If it's all the same to you Fang I think I might just go to bed."

"Oh… Oh ok…" Fang made an effort to try to not look disappointed, but Lightning saw through it anyway.

"I'm sorry. Today was just….. Yeah. Today."

"I understand." Fang replied with a gentle hand on Lightning's shoulder. "If you need anything though, give me a call and I'll come straight back ok?" Lightning nodded and turned to head up to the small bedroom, aware of the jade eyes burning into her the entire way up the stairs until she disappeared from sight.

Lightning stared at her reflection in the mirror, running her hands down her face. She looked at herself and narrowed her eyes. Prison garb. The orange jump suit was a stark contrast to her pale skin, but when she looked down she was wearing her GC uniform.

"What the.." As she cast a nervous gaze back at the mirror, her reflection jumped out at her. Glass shattering, she was tackled to the ground by her own doppelganger and they struggled for dominance. Each trying to gain the upper hand they kicked and punched, but the pink-haired criminal had overpowered her.

With manic blue eyes she looked down at herself, the Guardian Corps lieutenant, struggling to breathe as she choked the life out of her. Just as she saw the police officer Claire Farron take her last rasping breaths she also saw the manic grin on the criminal Aranea Palazzo's face.

Drenched in cold sweat and breath heaving to the point of burning her throat, Lightning clutched at her neck with a sob and sat bolt upright in bed. Frantically grasping at herself and the bed sheets she struggled to get her breathing under control.

"Dream. Just… A dream…" She whispered hoarsely to herself. She felt like she had fractured into two selves. Who was she in the dream? The lieutenant, or the criminal? Was it a premonition? A warning? Or just her in desperate need of a drink and kicking herself for not taking Fang up on her earlier offer?


Where was she? Lightning half expected her to be sprawled in bed with her but she was nowhere to be found. She felt claustrophobic being in the room underground and flung herself out of bed. Not bothering to put shoes on, Lightning left the room and padded down the stairs quietly to the main hall. She found Fang on the rundown couch, with one leg hanging over the back of it as she lay sprawled, lightly snoring.

It surprised the pinkette, and she allowed a small smile to appear on her face, feeling a light warmth in her chest that Fang kept her word and gave her space. She wasn't certain she wanted distance at that point though, she felt lonelier than ever. Lightning crept past her, taking one of the hallways to the right of the room to explore a little.

The bunker was certainly well equipped and built despite its decades of neglect. She found the archives Paine had mentioned, as well as a small infirmary, a defunct server room, a few barracks and a boardroom.

Rounding the corner, Lightning came upon two large iron doors that were a struggle to open, rust sealing their hinges. They finally gave way with a loud screech of metal, which made the pinkette wince. She hoped the sound didn't wake Fang but considering how much of a light sleeper she was in the Gallies, she doubted it.

The sight that met her as the door creaked open was not what she had expected. The room opened up into an enormous cavern that was surprisingly well lit from holes in the cave ceiling high above. There were bioluminescent plants covering the walls that provided a subtle glow about her, and it appeared there was a small courtyard where a small building once stood. It seemed that Eden really was built on the bones of the old world, and this cavern was no exception.

The space must have served as a water thoroughfare or reservoir due to the still active pipes spilling storm water further down, causing a small lake in the centre of the cavern. The air was cool and damp, and felt soothing to Lightning's heated skin, and she made her way across the stone pavement to the other side.

She sat on the edge and dangled her feet in the cold water, just attempting to focus on her surroundings and her breathing. In all her years in the GC she had never had to draw a gun on someone. She always thought about the prospect as for many it was an inevitability. "A target's a target." Was her mantra.

These thugs today were willing to kill her in cold blood, so why was she so shaken? Worse still, if she was on the other end would she have been able to draw a gun on Fang? She didn't want to think about it. Not now.

The very person on her mind cleared her throat behind her, making enough noise on approach so as not to startle the pinkette. "Fang. I'm sorry that I woke you kicking this door open." Lightning called out sadly.

"S'ok. You woke me up well before that but no matter. You spend as long as I have on the streets, in this game.. You learn to become a light sleeper. Quite the place you've found though Sunshine. It's beautiful." She meandered over and sat next to Lightning, staying close but keeping enough space between them so as not to overcrowd her. "You want to talk about it?"

To Fang's surprise, the pinkette closed the gap between them as she shifted over and leant into her shoulder. Lightning was hurting, and at that point she would take any form of counselling she could get. Even if that came from the unlikely source of a wanted criminal who was no stranger to what she was currently struggling with. She sighed and moved her leg through the water.

"I just thought it would have been easier. They are lowlife scum that take away from people, criminals, but I can't help but see the human side of them. They wouldn't have hesitated to put me down, and yet I still feel... Numb... For having put a bullet in them first."

A tanned arm wrapped around Lightning and held her close. Every instinct from her GC handbook was screaming at her over the dangerous line she was towing, but right now she craved the comfort.

"The thing is Light, is that the moment you stop feeling, that's the moment you gotta get out. You don't want it to get any easier. That's how innocent lives get taken out in the crossfire. That's how you make mistakes and lose friends and family. That's how you'll inevitably get a bullet through your skull."

Lightning looked at her incredulously. "How can you say that so casually knowing Gadot's record?"

A firm expression came over Fang's features and she stared at Lightning. "Because I got to see it all first hand and what it did to him. His brother was shot in the face in front of him and he didn't even flinch. I miss that dumb kid brother of his. You'd think it'd be helpful to let go of your humanity in our game, but the cost isn't worth it."

"Oh. I'm so sorry." Lightning winced, feeling thoroughly abashed. Fang moved her hand up and started idly playing with the pink hair.

"It's ok. Wouldn't expect you to know. Lebreau helps him, she's slowly been bringing him back so he's not completely lost. Still," She shrugged, "We're all criminals here, purveyors of chaos, rejecters of order. The line is going to blur sometimes between right and wrong, but as long as we're always mindful of that line, we'll come out on the right side. Life is sacred Lightning, regardless of how deep we go with this I never take one flippantly. As is the Hunter's Way."

Fang paused as she threaded her fingers deeper into the pale strands of hair, enjoying the soft feeling and the quiet contented murmurings coming from Lightning.

"I've tried to instil that value within the tenants of NORA. Weigh up every situation before walking into it, don't be the first to shoot unless it's their life or yours. No civilian harmed. Avoid law enforcement injury or death where possible. It's all about maintaining the balance."

Lightning looked up at Fang with an air of confusion. This wasn't at all in any of the reports. "Wow. They make you out to be more bloodthirsty killer than philosophical hunter in the news." She leaned into Fang's touch and closed her eyes. She hadn't had her hair played with since she was a child. Her mother would always do that when she had trouble sleeping.

The Pulsian chuckled. "Well the media does like to play things up. Psicom too. They'd rather see us out of the picture altogether, Etro knows they probably want the corner market on all our goings on..." There was no response from the pinkette, who was still leaning against Fang. "Sunshine?" she asked softly. Fang realised then that she had fallen asleep.

She smiled and gently scooped the sleeping woman in her arms, making her way back down the hall to the bedroom. She placed the pinkette gently in bed and covered her in the blankets. Feeling dangerous, she chanced a gentle kiss on Lightning's forehead, warming when a smile appeared across her face in her sleep.

"You're not like others I've met you know," She whispered as she sat on the edge of the bed watching the pinkette sleep, "I think I'm glad for that. Goodnight Lightning."

Chapter Text

The next time Lightning was roused from sleep was when Fang leapt onto the bed and straddled her waist.
"Rise and shine Sunshine!" Fang said cheerfully as she leant down to tap the pinkette on the nose. "We're going on a road trip today, just you and me. Whaddya reckon?"

Lightning groaned and rubbed her face. "It's too early for this... And get off me!"

"Nope, not until I know you're going to get up." She reached under the covers and started to tickle the skin she found there. The pinkette gasped and suppressed a giggle but failed, exploding into laughter as she tried to fight back.

"All right all right you win! I'm up.. Etro's sake..."
Fang bounded off the bed and bounced on her feet by the door. "We've gotta head out of town in order to make some safe purchases with our new found wealth. We can either head to Palumpolum or Bodhum. Considering you're from the latter, I figured we could head there. You can go visit your sister while I go shift some cash with The Fence."

She caught the hopeful look in the pinkette's eyes and smiled. Lightning threw back the covers and hurriedly got dressed, not caring that Fang was still in the room and likely not being subtle about her staring.

"How are we getting out there? Organising all… This?" She asked as she threw a shirt over her head and tidied her hair.

Fang bit her lip at the pale abdomen on display before it was finally covered by the last of the pinkette's shirt. "Uh... Oh. Well we have the warehouse up top where everything will be delivered to using one of our old shipping company fronts. Then get a few arms pitching in down here. It'll give people in the Warrens paid work, with a little bit extra provided for them in return for them shutting the hell up about what we're doing down here."

Lightning looked up at the Pulsian with a frown. "What's to stop them from just going to the GC or Psicom anyway?"

Fang smiled and pulled out a tablet and brought up a handful of photos, swiping through them. "Because we're taking your suggestion on board and are going to fix the Warrens up at the same time. This place was always ours back in the day, and the people haven't forgotten that. If we support the Warrens, the Warrens support us. Anyway, shall we?" She held out her hand in offering and Lightning stared at it.

Make it believable and you'll live longer. Rygdea's words rattled around in the pinkette's head. She took the offered hand with a small smile and watched Fang's eyes light up with glee. Lightning allowed herself to be lead out to the garage and stopped in her tracks when she saw the size of it. It was as large as an aircraft hangar, and was filled with cars covered in dust sheets.

"What the hell?" She exclaimed, looking at it all in confusion. Fang slid her hand around her waist and pulled her close.

"The leader of the gang that used this place as a speakeasy apparently liked his cars. Gadot's been down here with some friends of his over the last few days in between clean-ups fixing them up and getting them to work. Wanna pick something sexy for our drive?"

Lightning rolled her eyes and untangled herself from the Pulsian's limbs. "How about something that won't draw attention to us?" she said as she walked over to an open roof jeep and grabbed the keys off the wall next to it.

Yeah yeah I guess, you're no fun…" Fang pouted and jumped into the driver's seat before Lightning could get to it. "You've done enough driving for a while Sunshine, how 'bout you just stick your feet up and enjoy the ride for once?" The pinkette clicked her tongue in annoyance but otherwise relented and got in the passenger seat.

Before long the two were out on the open road, winding through the mountain pass to get to their destination. With the lack of roof, the wind whipped through the car and kept the women cool while the sun beat down on them from above.

"Gods I've missed this." Fang said while taking a deep inhale. "No cops, no gang shit, just… This. In another life hey Sunshine?"

Lightning hummed in response and closed her eyes, enjoying the warmth of the day. Fang shifted around in her seat as they passed the welcome sign to Bodhum.
"A question, if I may. How much of your life is she aware of? Your sister I mean." Fang asked solemnly with her fingers tensing on the steering wheel, staring at the road ahead. Lightning's shoulders sagged in the passenger seat and she exhaled forcefully.

"I… Promised her years ago I wouldn't involve myself in anything that would get me arrested or killed."

The brunette turned to her and saw the sadness behind the cerulean eyes. "How long did you keep that promise for?"

"About six months."

Fang nodded, and stayed quiet until she pulled up outside the address she was given. Lightning's family home was quaint, a small cladded house with a tiny garden at the front. She grabbed her phone and started punching details in to look up accommodation in the area. "Ok. Well I'm going to go sort out things with the Fence and then find a hotel for myself, you go spend time with your sister."

Lightning was caught off guard by the Pulsian's decision and balked. "You… don't have to do that Fang, I can-"

"Enough Light. You might have gotten lucky with your face not being caught on the news the other week but I am infamous enough that your sister has to at least know of me. Please. Just go, be with Serah. I'll text you when I get to a place so you know where I'm at." She leant forward and kissed the pinkette on the cheek, smiling at the blush she left in her wake. Fang unlocked the doors to allow Lightning to get out, but the pale woman hadn't moved to leave.

Lightning suddenly leant over and hugged her tight, surprising the Pulsian. "Thank you." She whispered and Fang smiled at the warmth. The pinkette regained her composure and rubbed the back of her neck, a habit she found she was picking up from the Yun. "I'll see you later?"

Fang nodded and placed her hand on her shoulder. "It's a date Sunshine."

She saw a smaller pink-haired woman standing on the front porch as Lightning got out of the car and grinned. "Well at least they make them well up in Cocoon..." Fang muttered to herself as she reversed out of the driveway, tires screeching as she took off up the street.

Lightning watched her leave before finally turning and embracing her sibling. "Goddess… I've missed you." She whispered into the younger Farron's hair. Serah was surprised at the outburst of affection and smiled.
"Does this mean you're free? No more undercover work?"

The elder pinkette sighed and stood back from her sister. "No, up to my eyeballs in it sadly. F-uh, Yun Fang suggested we make a detour here so I could see you."
Serah's eyebrows raised at the suggestion. "I thought she was supposed to be a vicious bloodthirsty criminal?" Lightning chuckled as she thought back over all the contradictory things she'd seen Fang do and say, and shook her head.

"So did I. She's opting to stay away, go find a hotel to give us time."

"Huh. That's going to take more than a little explaining Sis."

The two siblings went inside and Serah prepared a peach tea for her sister, sitting in their lounge room as Lightning took a moment to inhale the aroma. She opened her eyes and looked around at the warm setting as the afternoon sun hit the window. "This whole thing is a mess." She finally said, breaking the silence.

Serah sat quietly, ready to listen and suppressing any shock at her sister's openness and honesty. Claire had always been quiet and closed off about her work and especially never discussed cases. It must have gotten to her significantly if she's willing to talk about it. She thought with a wince.

"First Psicom says they picked me because of my looks, not the countless applications I've made to join their service or any of the papers I've written on the internal mechanisms of Eden's ganglands and NORA. Then they throw me in prison without any time to prepare or even tell you anything, and Jihl Nabaat gives me this bullshit profile I'm supposed to adhere to that would have gotten me killed if I had gone anywhere near Fang with it! Dammit I meant Yun Fang!"

The younger pinkette giggled and leant back on the couch. "Claire its fine I'm aware of Pulsian naming conventions. So after the frantic phone call I received a couple of weeks ago, why didn't Psicom pull you out of the operation?"

Lightning sighed and placed the cup on the table, rubbing her face with her hands. "I came across information that blew their case wide open. Like, all the way open. So they told me to stay put and see what else I can uncover. So now I'm definitely in over my head with no way out."

Serah observed her sister and narrowed her eyes. "Yet, you don't exactly sound put out by this sis. If anything your frustrations seem to be aimed at Psicom and their lack of support or planning and not the fact that you've manoeuvred yourself into a close position with a known criminal with a significant record."

The elder Farron's head snapped up to meet her sibling's eyes before looking away with a huff.
"Come on Claire, you don't get to be the only one with keen observational skills in the family just because you're a cop." Serah chided, and narrowly avoided a cushion thrown in her direction.

"I just… You know I have spent so much time researching NORA and its crew as a part of my applications to Psicom but… They don't even scratch the surface of what a complex personality Fang has, or what a complicated situation we're all in. You know she wants to fix up the Warrens with the money that was heisted from that gang-run bank in Eden? Goddess I'm starting to see her as the lesser of two evils."

Serah moved from her spot on the couch to sit next to her sister. "It can happen in deep cover assignments you know, the longer it goes on the higher risk you are of beginning to sympathise with the criminals or even become corrupted yourself." Lightning stared in disbelief.

"How in the hell do you.."

"We covered it a couple of semesters ago in my psychology course," She replied with a shrug and wrapped her arms around the elder Farron, "I know that whatever happens you'll do the right thing Claire. I believe you can do this. Just get what you need and get out."

Fang pulled up outside a warehouse by Bodhum Pier and killed the engine, leaving the music on. She tapped her fingers against the steering wheel in time with the music until she saw a deep red, sleek performance car pull into the car park. She shook her head at the ornate vehicle and sighed as she got out of the car.

"And my crew has a go at me for showing off.." She yelled as a tall dark man leapt out and walked towards her.

"Hey, I don't hear anyone complaining when I roll up. Fang, it's certainly been a minute." He held out his hand and she ignored it with a disdainful glare.

"Sorry Sazh, the man got me for a little while there."
Fang stepped back from him as he lit up a cigar and popped it between his teeth, staring pointedly at him until he relented and passed it over. Fang leant against his car with a huff and ignored the glare she received in response.

"So why here? Bodhum is pretty far out of the way for both of us kiddo." Sazh said amidst a cloud of smoke. Fang took a slow drag herself, and spared a moment to relish the flavour before handing it back.

"This isn't just tobacco is it old mate?" she asked, grinning at the non chalet shrug he returned. "I just.. This is home for one of my crew, so I figured she can go see her family, and you and I can sort out some overdue business."

Sazh chuckled and looked out to the road beyond the warehouse, a weary expression on his face. "Your crew huh?" He sighed and threw his cigar on the ground, stomping on it with his foot.

Any of Fang's jovial nature vanished in an instant. "Yes Sazh, my crew. Unlike you I stuck around to try to save who I could. Unlike you I worked tooth and nail to bust out so I could save Gadot before he fried. What about you? You just up and vanished. The high and mighty Titan takes off and I take the goddamn fall for your shit."

Sazh moved forward and shoved her by the shoulders. "What did you want me to do? I saw the writing on the wall with the Fal'Cie moving in but you wouldn't listen! I raised you Fang. I took you off the streets and built you up, gave you purpose, but you wouldn't know when to quit!"

"Fuck you Sazh!" the Pulsian snarled, and drew a gun on him. "I wasn't about to let everything we worked for get destroyed by an international cartel coming in and taking over!" she cocked the gun and aimed it at his head.

Sazh raised his hands in a surrendering gesture. "Fang you were right ok? Is that what you wanted to hear? You were right." He drew a shuddering breath and the brunette swore she saw tears forming in his eyes. "You were right."

Fang stared at the broken shell of a man before her. The man who once bore the name Titan. "Sazh... What happened?"

"They took my boy, Fang. The Fal'Cie took Dajh as collateral when the deal fell through. I don't know if he's dead, or still alive but he's gone."

Fang lowered the gun and looked away with a clenched jaw. "He's only a bloody kid, why... Why would they..." She looked down at the weapon and then over to him, before she pulled him to his feet. "I'm so sorry Sazh."

He stood back and adjusted himself once he had regained composure. "I came here to ask for your help Fang. I also came here fully expecting you to put a bullet in my head and had prepared for that. But I just want my boy safe. I want him home."

Fang's expression grew dark. Of all the friends she had lost in the collapse of NORA, they all knew what they were getting themselves into. To involve the innocent though, that was enough to set her off. She placed a firm hand on Sazh's shoulder.

"I can't promise I'm not gonna clock you in the jaw when this is all over for the stunt you pulled. But I will find Dajh. I'll get him home."

He smiled sadly and moved over to the driver's side door. "You always were my favourite, Fang. I'll tell you everything I know. Let's fence some goods to clean up that money and I'll get you anything else you need."
Fang shrugged and slid into the passenger seat, admiring the expensive looking interior. She side-eyed Sazh as he entered the vehicle and kicked the engine over. "I mean it though Sazh. It's my crew now. Don't go getting any ideas about a miraculous comeback."

He laughed loudly, with a hint of sadness to the sound. "Please. It stopped being my gang long before the shit hit the proverbial fan. NORA's in good hands with you at the helm kiddo."

A few hours later the Pulsian was on her way again in a vehicle, a personal preference she'd found in a private sale in Bodhum. Old school Gran Pulse muscle, burnt orange with deep black lines going down the middle of the car. Fang revved the engine every chance she got just to hear it purr.

Sazh had armed her with information on the gang that was responsible for anything related to human trafficking. The Seraphim had a reputation for shipping people into slavery for the Fal'Cie, so if anyone was going to be responsible for Dajh's disappearance, it'd be them. He also gave her the names and details of any known Seraphim members in the local area in case she felt like going for a spot of hunting.

Fang scrolled through the list every time she was stopped at a set of traffic lights, growing angrier by the minute. She didn't expect her reunion with her former mentor and leader of NORA to be so complicated. A smoke, a farewell, a bullet through his stubborn skull as revenge. Simplicity.

But instead she was thrown a curve ball that involved his kid son being taken as punishment for the "Integration Deal" falling apart. The deal fell apart because Fang got reckless in her rage and as a result the gang collapsed; Gadot, herself and about a third of the gang wound up in prison and Sazh was forced into hiding. The other two thirds were either killed in the shootout or dropped their colours and vanished out of the country.

She punched the wheel in frustration, letting out a savage scream. It didn't make her feel any better to hear him admit she was right about the Fal'Cie, if anything it made it worse considering everything that happened.

The brunette continued to look through the list of names until she saw an address near to where she was. When she pulled it up on GPS she realised she was unconsciously driving back towards Lightning's family home. She gripped the steering wheel hard until her knuckles went white. There was a Seraphim gang member less than a block from Serah's house.

"Not on my fucking watch." She growled and gunned the engine, tearing off down the street.

She killed the ignition as she hit Serah's driveway, so she could roll the vehicle in quietly. Fang got out of the vehicle and went the rest of the way on foot.

An unsettling feeling descended on her when she realised how close the Seraphim member was to where Lightning's kid sister lived, only about five doors away. A van was parked in the driveway, which meant someone was home. Fang quietly made her way down the side of the house, carefully peering into windows to case the premises. Her target was out in the back yard, drinking a beer on his deck while a rather imposing black and brown gorgonopsid paced around the perimeter.

Silently drawing her gun, Fang waited a few minutes to watch the beast's patrol patterns, then leapt over the fence. She crept into a corner and waited for the animal to pass once more. As it approached and sniffed the air, Fang took a deep breath and reached for it, grabbing by the head and quickly twisting it to end its life. "Sorry friend, you deserved a far better life than to be a slave to the Fal'Cie. Go with the stars." She whispered to the beast as she lay it on the ground and placed her hand on its chest. The brunette never fancied herself one for religion but the Hunter's Way was still ingrained from childhood.

Fang took another breath and allowed the rage to seep into her system. The Seraphim, the Fal'Cie; she would make them all pay. For what they took from her, for what they took from Sazh, for what they took from her friends, for the potential of what they could take from Lightning, being so near her sister. With all the deep coldness settling in her heart she stood slowly and purposefully walked up the stairs to the deck and right up to the gang member.

"The hell? How'd you get in here?" the man yelled as he sat up in his chair, "This is private property, get ou-"
His words were cut short by a savage fist to his face, Fang quickly grabbing his beer bottle and smashing it across his head. He pulled a knife from his belt and slashed Fang across the arms.

Ignoring the pain, she leapt on top of him and began to lay into him, punch after punch until his face was so broken and swollen his friends wouldn't recognise him. He managed to get a few more cuts and stabs into her before a solid clock to his cheek shattered the bone and he was finally rendered unconscious.

Fang stood up, breathing heavy and clutching at her side. Glaring at him coldly she aimed her gun point blank at his head.

"Not on my fucking watch."

Chapter Text

Footsteps clunked in the hallway behind the Farron sisters and Lightning rolled her eyes. "He is the exact reason I wanted a house with tiles instead of wooden floorboards, Serah."

Snow popped his head in and smiled broadly. "Sis! You're back!"

"I'm not your sister." The pinkette sighed and otherwise acknowledged him with little more than a nod. He walked over to the couch and gave Serah a kiss on the top of the head, before taking his jacket off and hanging it up.

"Serah has given me the shorthand version of the troubles you're in at work. I don't know the details and nor do I want to. But no matter what I will look after Serah and keep her safe."

Any sarcastic retort evaporated in the wake of his sincerity. She couldn't stand the oaf but he was loyal to a fault and his love for her little sister couldn't be denied. "Thank you Snow." She finally replied, eliciting a beaming smile from both him and the younger Farron.

"I gotta say though sis, whatever you're into at present you've gotta hook me up. That car in the driveway is amazing!"

Both sisters looked at each other and Lightning felt her stomach flip. "What are you talking about? What car in the driveway?" She got up and raced outside to find a sleek muscle car glittering in the late afternoon sun. "I.. It's absolutely gorgeous but it's not mine." She stammered, bewildered at the machine parked out front.

Snow ran his hand along the bonnet and whistled. "Well if not you then whose...?"

"It's mine." Fang's voice rang out from behind them and Lightning's stomach dropped. The three of them spun around to find the Pulsian leaning up against the garage door, with a beer in hand. She was partially hidden by shadows, and Lightning's mind began to race.

Serah quickly figured out who it was and squeezed her fiancé's hand to get his attention. "No matter how much she hates it, don't call her anything but sis in front of this woman. I'll explain later." She hissed quietly, turning her face away just in case her sister's new friend was a lip reader.

Lightning cautiously approached the woman, and as she got closer she saw the bloodied knuckles around the beer bottle, with parts of her shirt stained with deep red. She rushed forward and clutched at the brunette with a worried expression. "Fang! What happened?"

The Pulsian chuckled, a distant tint to the sound. "You had a Seraphim problem nearby the house."

"But what happened?"

"There is no longer a Seraphim problem nearby the house."

They stared at each other as the implication of the words settled in Lightning's mind. The pinkette gently took Fang's face with her hands, to check the cut along the cheek and delicately ran her thumb across the skin. "Thank you for... Taking care of that," She whispered so her sister couldn't hear. "Let's get you cleaned up, did you book a motel?" Fang nodded and moved back off the garage, stumbling a little. Lightning caught her and helped her over to the car.

Sarah watched the display and grew a little uneasy. Not only was she face to face with one of the most notorious criminals in Eden who was covered in blood and looking every bit as dangerous as the papers said, her sister seemed to already be forming an attachment to the Pulsian. Either that or she was damn good at her undercover work.

"Sorry mini-lightning, didn't exactly want this to be my first impression when meeting the family." Fang's voice startled her from her thoughts and she looked over to find the brunette sitting in the passenger seat of the car, with the door open.

"Oh! I don't... Don't even worry about it. What happened?"

Lightning and Fang looked at each other before the elder Farron went back to checking on the wounds. "Mugger from the looks of things." She said quietly, knowing full well nobody in that group was going to believe it.

Sarah raced inside and into her sister's old room. She opened the wardrobe and found the old field kit Lightning had inherited. Taking it back outside, she handed it to her elder sibling with a smile. "I hope this will help," She offered, giving Fang a nervous once over, "I'm Serah by the way. It's nice to meet some of my sister's friends for once, though obviously not right after you've been mugged of course.. This is my fiancé Snow." She said as he waved casually.

"You meet sis through her work or something?" He asked innocently, still vaguely confused by things.

Fang smiled and closed her eyes, shaking her head in amusement. "You could certainly say that mate." She laughed, coughing a little as she started to feel more of her injuries with the adrenaline wearing off. Lightning gave her sibling and Snow a look that was both thankful and willing them for silence with her mind, and thankfully they both complied. She turned back to Fang whose face was contorted in pain and threw the med-kit in the backseat.

"Come on. Let's go check in. I can always come back here later. Need to get you lying down so I can patch you up properly."

The brunette groaned, swinging her legs around into the car. "I'm gonna ruin its new car smell with all this blood.." She grumbled as Lightning got in the driver's seat.

"We'll get it cleaned. Shut up. Serah, I'm… I've gotta go. I'll keep in touch ok?"

The younger Farron walked over to the driver's side of the vehicle, leaning in for a hug. "Please be careful. I love you sis." She said quietly with a shaky breath. Lightning withdrew before her deeply locked down emotions could surface, and nodded towards Snow.

"You do realise that if he hurts you I will break his legs right?" She reversed out of the driveway before her sister could respond but she did receive a glare for the threat. Snow looked uneasy and leant close to his fiancé.

"That's…. she said that as a part of her cover right? To be the angry dangerous criminal?" He whispered as Lightning beeped the horn and drove off.

"Hardly." Serah scoffed with a roll of her eyes, and retreated back into the house.

Fang entered in the destination to their GPS and the two women drove in silence for a while with Lightning just enjoying the sound of the motor. She thought her companion had fallen asleep, but when she glanced over found her staring straight ahead with a set jaw.

"Fang... Are.. You ok? What really happened back there?"

The pinkette's voice roused Fang back to the present, and she looked at her bloodied hands. "Got mad. Received some news while I was out today that was… Unfavourable and involving the Seraphim gang. When I found out one was within a block radius of your sister I… I couldn't. I couldn't leave him there. Not after I came across another victim of their fucking slave trade. They took Titan's kid."

Lightning's head whipped around at the name. He's alive? She met with him! He must have been the Fence she was talking about… Dammit while I was seeing my sister she must have… Nabaat's going to have my head on a pike for this..

Fang glanced over at Lightning with a raised eyebrow. "Your sister… she's a real terrible liar you know? It was cute though… Pretending not to know who I was. She do that for my benefit, or yours?"

Lightning gripped the steering wheel and ground her teeth. "Probably hers more than anything. She.. Knows the work I do now. I told her everything. Probably just trying to entertain some plausible deniability when we wind up on the evening news again."

Fang hummed and absorbed that information, and decided to probe further. "What about the GC grade medical kit she conveniently has in your family home? No offense but she looks more like an elementary school teacher than someone that knows how to fight. It's either hers which is surprising, or yours and we need to have a serious discussion."

The pinkette's mind raced. "No I.. My father's actually."

"Your dad? He was GC?"

Lightning nodded. "He served since he got out of high school, met mom on the job. He was... Killed in the line of duty. Caught in a gang shootout. And didn't make it out. I never returned his kit." The whole reason she got involved with the police in the first place, and spent every year since she graduated trying to apply for the organised crime unit in Psicom. Whether it was to avenge her father's death or seek justice, it was difficult to tell on any given day. Her current position made that reasoning all the more difficult.

Fang winced and shifted around in her seat, trying to get comfortable and keep the blood off the upholstery. "Sorry to hear that Light. He must have been a good man to raise you and your sister right." She said, receiving a sardonic glance as Lightning drove down the highway. "If you think I'm going to factor in illicit activities as some sort of stain on your character Sunshine, you're talking to the wrong person. So, you ever think about pursuing a career in law enforcement?"

Lightning shrugged, tapping her fingers on the steering wheel. "I tried out for the Guardian Corps here after I left high school. Made it into their academy, but got kicked out for disobeying a directive. You know the rest, courtesy of Vanille and her Psicom access."

She had been kicked from the academy for disobeying a directive, but it was over a trainer being inappropriate and unable to take no for an answer, so she broke her nose. Captain Amodar appealed it at the time and got her transferred, rescuing her career and ending the trainer's.

None of what she said was a lie. That was why she found it easy to talk with Fang, be around her, and do what she had to do. When her profile wasn't a far deviation from her actual self, there were less lies to deal with, less anxiety from trying to remember who she was meant to be. At least that's how she figured anyway. Serah and her psychology could stay on a bookshelf and shut up.

Fang smiled, thinking about all the possible things her companion could have done to get her booted. "Kicked out of GC for disobeying an order? Somehow not surprising. Huh. So in another life you could have been a cop? Did you at least keep the handcuffs?" Lightning gave the grinning Pulsian a glare and pulled into the motel. She left Fang in the car while she checked in, and then helped her up to the room.

Laying the Pulsian down on the bed, she then got to work unpacking the med kit around her so she could work. "All right Fang, I'm going to need you to remove your shirt." She said with the smallest of smiles, recalling a similar conversation had earlier on.

Fang grinned, recognising the familiarity and slowly removed the ruined shirt from her body. "Not quite how you envisaged getting my gear off huh?" They both laughed and then Lightning got to work cleaning out the wounds.

"There's thankfully nothing too deep, you'll need stitches in a few of these slashes though. I've got the equipment here but it's probably worth a raid of the mini bar to get something to help with… The pain…" She trailed off as she noticed her companion watching her with a curious expression. "What?"

"Nothin'. You're just.. Amazing. You know that right?"

Lightning stared in disbelief and arched an eyebrow. "You took on a Seraphim bare handed to keep my sister safe. How am the amazing one?"

Fang laughed, the sound cut short from a cough wracking her lungs. She smiled softly and shook her head. "You came out of nowhere you know? Just… an angry face in a sea of arseholes in the Gallies. But you've saved my arse on more than one occasion, you've helped give NORA purpose again. You've had my back every step of the way and I go and let my rage get the better of me, again, ending your catch up with your sister prematurely." She sighed, reaching for Lightning's hand. "I just... I'm sorry for taking the time away from you and your sister."

"I miss my sister, but I'd miss you more if you bled out on my driveway." Lightning replied with a blush, watching the jade eyes before her become lidded and dark. Fang suddenly leant up and slid her hand around the pinkette's neck, drawing her into a slow kiss.

Lightning gasped against the Oerban's lips and dropped the supplies in her hands. It was like a fire had been lit inside her, melting away all of the icy walls she'd put in place and left a torrent of feeling in its wake.

The Pulsian purred contentedly as she tasted the woman above her, and coaxed the quietest of moans out of her whenever she would pause to bite at Lightning's lip. She forgot about the pain she was in, the feeling replaced with a seductive slow burn as she ran her hands underneath the pinkette's shirt. Fang's tongue slid along Lightning's bottom lip, slipping past and revelled in the soft whimper that crept from her throat.

Lightning threaded her fingers through Fang's hair and the groan that tore from the Pulsian's throat sent desire flooding through her. She wanted it. She needed it. She needed her.

"It can happen in deep cover assignments you know, the longer it goes on the higher risk you are of beginning to sympathise with the criminals or even become corrupted yourself."

The pinkette suddenly reeled back when she heard her sister's earlier words ringing through her head, remembering herself as she fell onto the floor. Both women were breathing heavily and Fang felt cold from the sudden loss of body heat. "Sunshine?"

"S-sorry. I… I don't know what… You're injured and… Shit. Shit shit shit."

"… Light?"

She got up from the floor and paced to the door. "I'm gonna go get you a bottle of something for the stitches. Preference?"

Fang stared at her in disbelief. It was as if none of the past five minutes transpired. "There's a bottle of tequila in the car that I swiped from the Seraphi- Hey W-wait!" She called after the pinkette as Lightning hurried out of the room and closed the door behind her. "… The fuck was all that about?" The Pulsian huffed as she laid back on the bed, staring at the ceiling in confusion.

Meanwhile Lightning was standing outside staring at her hands in disbelief. "The fuck am I getting myself into?" she raced downstairs and rummaged through the backseat of the car, seeking out the alcohol amongst the other loot Fang appeared to have acquired from the gang member's home.

She hated that her sister was right. True to her sister's theory the lines were blurring, and she had no idea how to proceed. If this was what it meant to get closer to the Pulsian in order to get the intel, it was dangerous. Dangerous and most likely fatal. Rygdea's warnings of "make it believable" shot through her mind once more as she grabbed the bottle and ascended the stairs back to the room. She hovered at the doorway, trying to calm her breath.

Lightning was past the point of no return now, if she continued to push Fang away she might lose her chance to be within the inner circle and wreck the operation. If she stopped and let her in… What would that mean for her? What did it mean for her that she wanted to just give in and damn the consequences? How much more complicated was this going to become? She stood outside the door for a few minutes, for once lost as to how to handle the situation.

"You know I can hear you having an existential crisis from in here right? Will you just get your arse in here so we can talk?" Fang's voice called from inside. Lightning was startled, and forgot that Fang's senses were more honed than most. "At least stitch me up so I don't bleed out and you lose the security deposit?" the brunette continued, voice slightly weaker and the pain obvious.

Lightning sheepishly opened the door and entered the hotel room, bottle in tow. She quietly handed the bottle of tequila to the Pulsian, who eagerly took it and swigged the bottle.

"Far out. That was sorely needed after today. Now what the hell Light? Honestly you are the hardest person I've ever met in my life to get a read on. One minute you're into me, the next you're pushing me away!" Fang said firmly, the frustration evident in her voice. She pushed the bottle into Lightning's hands with a pointed glare until the pinkette took a drink herself.

Lightning didn't respond initially, looking at the small bottle of alcohol that she cradled in her hands. Every time she looked like she was going to say something, she closed her mouth again. "I just.. I never.. I don't know what…" She kept stumbling over her words and then gave up, sitting down on the bed and exhaling hard. For once she didn't know how to respond, her stories and covers and anything else she could concoct to save her skin fizzed out from her tongue when she remembered the Pulsian tasting it. Fang drew her own conclusions from the broken speech, and her expression softened.

"Hey, look at me." Fang called quietly, and smiled as her friend relented and lifted her head, though her eyes were still darting everywhere to avoid meeting her gaze. "It's ok you know?"


The Pulsian raised an eyebrow and stared. "Etro Light, was that the first time you've kissed a woman?"

"Yes. No. I.. No. It wasn't. It's just. Can we please not talk about this?" She said with a voice barely above a whisper. Fang seemed to understand and shook her head.

"You're not ready. I get it. But Light, I'm into you. And judging by that kiss you're into me as well. Don't deny yourself the things you want Light, you're an amazing warrior goddess with the world at her feet. We can do anything we want." Fang said as she reached out and gently stroked the pinkette's cheek with her hand. "Take your time sorting through your hang ups and let me know when you're done. I'm not going anywhere Sunshine, and I can be very, very patient."

Lightning swallowed hard at the admission, partially relieved that she was being given an out, but it was a temporary escape. However her concerns were made reality. The deeper she went into this assignment the more she was going to be with Fang and likely in an intimate capacity. It seemed like an all or nothing situation. She couldn't screw up this assignment. Not after everything she'd been through.

"What I can't wait for though is these stitches. Think we can at least close me up?" Fang's voice called her from her thoughts. The pinkette nodded and took another drink to steady her hands. The alcohol burned its way down her throat and allowed the shaking thoughts to subside for a moment.

"Face it later." She whispered to herself and leant down to get to work.

Chapter Text

"So to say Jihl's pissed would be the understatement of the century…" Rygdea shrugged, as he and Lightning drank a coffee in a café back in Eden. Two weeks had passed since their impromptu trip home and already the Warrens were seeing the aftermath.

Pathways were starting to be paved, houses in the main square had construction scaffolding all over, bricking the walls to replace the hovels ramshackled together from scraps. They had even hollowed out an abandoned building to convert to a hospital for free access to healthcare.

NORA was becoming a welcome name in the district, much to the chagrin of Psicom. The locals in the Warrens weren't blind to the goings on of Fang and her crew, but they turned the other way and accepted it as a small price to pay for the betterment of their lives and their homes.

"Why? I thought this would have made her happy to have taken out one of the biggest gang banks in Eden." Lightning frowned, swirling the black coffee around in her cup. "Is she just being a jealous idiot because we effectively stole her thunder and I've made her look incompetent yet again?"

Rygdea looked unsettled. "I think there might be more to it than that Claire." Cerulean eyes glared at him.

"Don't call me that."

"What, you prefer Lightning or whatever it is you're going by now?"

She nodded. "I do actually. Feels more comfortable." The handler scribbled notes down in his book.

"Cl-Lightning... This is some serious deep undercover work here love. I need to make sure you're still on the right team."

"What the fuck is that even supposed to mean?" Lightning snapped at him, her voice unintentionally growing louder and causing other patrons to stare.

"I don't mean anything by it, I don't wanna cause offense," Rygdea whispered, keeping his voice low and leaning in, "There's protocols, psychological impacts of playing up an identity for so long. You've been by Yun Fang's side constantly for nearly two months now, you've robbed a bank, taken lives of other gang members. That kind of thing isn't natural for anyone let alone a GC officer, and can likely cause no end of stress. You sound like you're getting too close."

First Serah and now you.

Lightning growled in warning, anger affecting her demeanour and becoming more threatening without her realizing she was doing it.

"You're not here. You're not spending almost every hour of every day with a time bomb. Every lie gets me deeper, and the deeper I go the more brutal my inevitable death will be. You even said, make it believable. So I am."

The Psicom agent raised his hands in defence. "You'll get no arguments from me girly. But you need to tell me the moment you're not, or if you think you're being compromised and we will pull you out immediately. This is a huge case but it isn't worth your life."

He slid his hand across and placed it over hers. "In just need to know that you're ok."

"I'm fine." She replied through gritted teeth and withdrew her hand, pulling a hard drive out of her bag. "I swiped this from the bank manager's office from that heist. It's heavily encrypted, which means there's likely to be some amazing information on it that will put a few people behind bars. Do you know of anyone that might be able to break it?"

Rygdea took the drive and stashed it in his coat. "There's a couple of people down in the data archives that may be able to assist. I'll keep it on the DL."

"Extreme need-to-know only Rygdea, we don't know whose names are going to turn up in that data."

He nodded and slid something across to her. "Found your next target. The Seraphim gang have a shipping yard under their territory and control, and they use the port to engage in a bit of human trafficking. This will hurt the trade, hurt the gang and save a whole lot of lives in the process."

"Is this another scrap on the bottom of Jihl's list?" Lightning queried with a growl. He nodded in response.

"I'm going to do some more digging but I have some concerns that she's being paid off to turn the other way. One of the agents in the cyber division approached me looking for info on the Seraphim gang, and I've been working with her over the last few weeks to gather as much as we can to try and end their trafficking.. But my instinct is giving me a lot of warning bells about the fact that Jihl appears to be deliberately ignoring these cases." He stood up to leave. "I'll get the drive down to data recovery and see what they can pull up for us."

She nodded and walked him to the street. Before he got in his car he turned to the pinkette with a sad expression. "Farron, please be careful, I don't want to see your body floating through the waterways here."

Despite her reaction towards Rygdea's concerns, Lightning had to admit they were valid. She had been getting progressively closer to the Pulsian woman over the last few months, especially after the kiss in the motel room. While it hadn't been brought up again, the pinkette knew that Fang was true to her word. She was patient, and not to mention calculated. The more time went on the more Lightning struggled with her feelings and her position.

Seeing this side of Fang, the jovial nature and the surprisingly honourable code she lived by was not anywhere close to how the reports described her. But then she had seen Fang become rapidly violent and aggressive and everything that the reports said she was. Lines were muddling heavily for the pinkette, and it reminded her of something Fang had said to her that night in the cavern she'd found.

The line is going to blur sometimes between right and wrong, but as long as we're always mindful of that line, we'll come out on the right side.

She had hoped that would be true. Especially given the feelings that were starting to surface between them. Touches lingered longer, shoulders and hands brushed, glances became stares. Lightning was growing concerned that she was losing control of herself in this situation, but she wasn't willing to admit it out loud and lose everything she'd been risking her life for over the last several months of undercover work. Lightning couldn't even recall the last time she'd been with anyone, it would have had to have been well before she enlisted with the GC. She had thrown herself into the role, at the expense of everything else.

Conflicting feelings were arising regarding her role there as well. How many times had she had enough evidence to take out a drug dealer or a serial arsonist only to be bound up by red tape and bureaucracy? Or for them to walk because of some serious wheeling and dealing from a well-paid attorney? In a matter of months she had managed to take out a major crime financial source, and then use the money recovered to help clean up the Warrens.

Gone were the shacks and poverty, and in its place stood a thriving vibrant community. Families were healthier, people were happier. NORA had become less a dangerous violent gang as the media portrayed them but a defender of the community.

It's done wonders for their image really.. Lightning thought as she punched in the access code to take her into the HQ underground.

"Hey Sunshine!" Fang called out as she entered the main hall. The Pulsian was bent over a desk by some scaffolding that had a map sprawled over it. She scribbled furiously on a pad, her low cut button shirt was open at the top that gave Lightning a clear view of her tanned cleavage as the pinkette approached the desk. Swallowing hard and forcing her eyes elsewhere, she cleared her throat and passed over the envelope.

"Uh, my contact was back in town today. Met with him for coffee. Gave me some goods on how to mess up the Seraphim's human trafficking trade." The silence in the hall was instantly noticeable. Fang's sharp gaze met Lightning's and she snatched the envelope quickly out of her hand, scanning over its contents with darting eyes.

Paine and Rikku appeared next to the Pulsian, the shorter blonde woman looking shaken. "What's it say?" She asked with a catch in her voice. Fang held up a hand while she still read, silencing any further questions.

"Where did you get this Lightning?" She asked, looking her dead in the eye. There was obviously something more going on here, so she didn't mess around and figured the safest route would be one not far from the truth.

"I have a contact that works as a paper pusher in the Eden GC archives. I supplied him with drugs back in the day and saved his ass from his employer finding out before I wound up in prison. So the guy owes me a few favours. I asked him if he ever gets anything through the filing requests that pertain to any major gang activity to give me a call."

"You have a contact… in the police? You were going to tell me about that when exactly?" Fang's eyes flashed dangerously with the question.

Paine straightened up and sneered. "Yeah I bet she has a contact in the GC…" Lightning didn't flinch and growled in warning.

"How many contacts do you have Fang? Do you tell us all of their positions and life history? He's a glorified clerk in the GC, not Psicom, so it leaves your sister well out of harm's way if that's what you're worried about. I keep my contacts identity secure regardless of who I am talking to because that's how I stayed in business and kept my ass out of a grave."

Rikku snatched the papers out of Fang's hands and ran out of arm's reach to read it. "It's not going to get her back is it.." She said sadly. Paine approached her and wrapped an arm around her.

"Maybe not but it's a start in the right direction. Fang, I'm taking her out back and going over some of the logistics while you sort out your girl's… Priorities…" Paine drawled with a glare at the pinkette.

Lightning bristled and stepped into Paine's space. "If you have a problem with me you better just come out and say it." She half expected Fang to step in but instead the brunette folded her arms and stood back, merely content to observe.

The silver-haired woman wasn't intimidated in the slightest. She shrugged and gave the shorter woman a once over. "Fang may be thinking with her pants when it comes to you…"

"Watch your mouth Paine.." Fang warned from the side of the room.

"… But I'm watching you." She continued, pushing Lightning back with each step forward she took. "I've seen the way you operate. Your reluctance to get your hands dirty? A contact in the GC? You're having a hard time convincing me you're not a viper."

Lightning's heart thudded in her ears and she narrowed her eyes at the insult. That derogatory term for an undercover cop made her blood boil. She opened her mouth to respond but Fang put a hand on her shoulder, firm and tight. "She was responsible for saving our asses when I busted Gadot from the court house. You were down in the safe while we were up top during the bank raid Paine," Fang said with an authoritative tone, "The raid that she has a body count under her belt for, which she supplied details for us to pull off. The raid that's allowed us to obtain the funds to get NORA back in action. What more does she need to do to prove that she's with us for the long haul?"

Paine stared the brunette down for a few seconds before puffing out air between her lips, making a small puttering sound. "I defer to your judgement, boss." She relented with a shrug, before taking Rikku by the shoulders and guiding her from the room. They were dismissed with an annoyed wave from Fang. Lightning shifted her weight from foot to foot, uncomfortable about whatever situation she'd unwittingly gotten herself into between the two of them.

"… Thank you, for sticking up for me." Lightning said quietly, head lowered. Her own gratitude sounded hollow in her ears, and she felt sick to her stomach that Fang had come to her defence over what Paine had truthfully deduced.

"I… Just wish I had have known Light." Fang said softly when they were left alone for the moment. "We could have helped in some way, or found other avenues to pool resources… There's a lot riding on these arseholes being shut down."

Lightning couldn't believe she felt guilt surging through her at the sad look in Fang's eyes. She gently took Fang by the hand, drawing the Pulsian's gaze to her eyes. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner Fang, it wasn't my intention to keep you in the dark, especially considering you're looking for Titan's son. He's just… dancing a very thin line to get me this information and the less people that know the better. Force of habit."

She felt her hand squeezed and a small smile grow at the edge of Fang's lips. "It's… It's ok Light. I understand that more than you'd think. This information though, it's good. We've been trying to break the Seraphim's slave trade for a long time, and this will get us in the door." She startled the pinkette as she enveloped her in a tender embrace, and Lightning willed her body not to react to the tanned body being so close. Shivers rocketed down her spine, clearly not intent on listening to her silent pleas for calm.

"Did… Did something happen with Rikku?" She asked. Fang nodded and moved back a little but still held onto Lightning's hands. She traced the lines on her knuckles with a callused thumb, and once again the Pinkette was internally trying to put the fire out that was being ignited in her abdomen.

"Yeah. It's how I met her. Early days of NORA. We were investigating why people in the Warrens were disappearing, people were losing family and friends left right and centre. We'd accidentally stumbled onto a global smuggling ring that was operating outside of Eden, where people were being kidnapped from all over to be sold into slavery and prostitution." Fang said with an expression of distaste.

"The Seraphim gang were at the forefront of it all, getting a foothold into the city. We found one of the higher ups and tailed him out of Eden, took him out and went to burn his house down, but found a slave in the basement. We freed her, got her patched up and gave her as much support as we could. She stuck around with us ever since."

"Rikku." Lightning breathed as she put two and two together. Fang nodded in confirmation.

"Her cousin, Yuna, was taken at the same time. She's been hunting for her for years. Paine grew up with the two of them, and got close to Rikku while they were searching. We have no evidence of whether or not she's alive but… This port could hold records that might prove useful in a search. We'd also take out their major trade route and disrupt them from taking any further victims."

Looking down at her hands, Lightning realised they were still being held by Fang. She seemed to notice at the same time as well and let go suddenly, the slightest colour showing up on her olive cheeks. Lightning couldn't help but smile a little at that; at least it meant she wasn't the only one struggling with feelings. Oh crap. That means she has feelings. That means I have feelings. Shit. Lightning's thoughts went into overdrive at the internal revelation, and she coughed nervously and looked at the map.

"So uh, yeah. When you want to head out?"

The information had lead them to Palumpolum, a coastal city south of Eden. It was a major shipping port that connected with various other countries such as Pulse and Spira, and potentially the hub where the trafficking connected. Fang, Lightning, Rikku and Paine were on the roof of a building across from the shipping yard, overlooking the layout.

"If we wait until after dark we will have more of a chance to get in there and do more damage before we're caught." Paine offered as she peered through a set of binoculars. She passed them to Lightning and asked for her thoughts.

"It looks like they have a slew of trained beasts in decent numbers judging from the amount of kennels scattered about the yard, so baiting them with something to make them sleep through the action is preferable. Guard rotation is pretty tight too. Their formation leaves little room to move undetected. We will likely have to create a distraction at one end of the site in order to draw fire and manpower away from where the victims are being kept."

Fang patted her abdomen as she spoke up. "We should probably go get some food then. No point doing this on an empty stomach." Lightning waved them off.

"You guys go ahead. I'm going to stay here and take notes."

A sigh escaped Fang's mouth. There was no arguing with her when she was in her tactician mode. She reluctantly left with Rikku and Paine, leaving the pinkette to her scribbling. The trio found a café and they sat by the window to keep a vigil on the nearby building.

"Alright out with it Fang. What's the go between the two of you?" Rikku asked after coming back from ordering their meal. The Pulsian's eyes darted around rapidly and she choked on the water she was drinking.

"Wha- whaddya mean?"

"Please. We've seen the looks you give her. And the looks she gives you when you're not looking."

Fang's eyes lit up. "She gives me looks?" she said hopefully. Rikku laughed at the goofy expression that came over the brunette's face.

"Wow. I've known you a while now and this is the first time I've seen you actually trying to suppress your natural charm.."


The silver haired woman rolled her eyes at the banter and leant back in the booth. "I think Rikku means you're usually... Playing the game so to speak. But Lightning seems to have you off said game." Paine offered, "in fact I don't recall the last time you bedded a woman."

"It's just not a priority right now!" Fang snapped in defence.

"We never said it was a bad thing you know," Rikku said quietly, "Everyone deserves someone, and I think it's nice."

The waitress came over with the meals for Paine and Rikku and a bag for Fang. "Aye? What's this?"

"Idiot. It's lunch for you and Lightning. Takeout." Paine replied pointedly while motioning for Fang to leave. That was about as close to an apology for her earlier insubordination that the Pulsian was going to get.

"Oh. Right. Thanks Paine."

Fang stood at the doorway looking out at the rooftop. The way Lightning's hair fluttered in the breeze gave her an ethereal beauty that made Fang's breath catch. She watched the Pinkette gaze out to the shipping yard before turning back to her notes, the tip of her tongue poking out a little as she wrote. Fang found it positively adorable.

Azure eyes travelled from the notepad to Fang and then brightened. "Hey you're back sooner than I thought." Lightning called over casually. The Pulsian held up the bag of food and smirked.

"Didn't feel right leaving you up here to starve."

Fang sat down next to Lightning, legs dangling over the edge of the building as she fished around in the bag for lunch. They sat in companiable silence as they ate, and Lightning read over her notes. She leant in close to Fang and their shoulders touched when Lightning brought the notepad up for Fang to see.

"I've been sketching out the layout of the shipping yard and watching guard movement patterns over the last hour, and I think I've figured out where they're keeping the victims. There's a group of shipping containers stacked four high over on the east side, where the pathways force a bottleneck situation." She pointed in the direction of the crates and Fang tried to follow her line of sight. "It'll create problems if we get funnelled in there by the Seraphim crew."

Fang considered it for a moment as she looked at how beautiful Lightning was when she was focused. "So... Stealth is going to be key then. Seems now is as good a time as any to give you this then." She got up and grabbed a case from their stacked gear by the roof access door, bringing it back over to Lightning's inquisitive stare.

"I uh, wanted to get you something that showed how much I've... Valued having you here. You don't exactly strike me as the flowers or chocolates kind of girl so I got you something that is probably more up your alley." She slid the case over to Lightning and gestured for her to open it.

"Fang... What did you..." With hands that were slightly shaking she pressed the clips on the case and jumped as they flicked open. She slowly opened the case and then leant back with a stifled gasp. A beautiful blade was embedded within the moulded felt, curved and deadly. The mechanical looking hilt jutted out at an angle, and she noticed a trigger near the top of the handle. "This... This is a gunblade." She breathed, in shock of what she was seeing.

Fang nodded with a smile. "Psicom issued. After what you told me about getting kicked out of the GC I.. Yeah. It was hard to get my hands on but you deserve the best."

Lightning removed the blade from its case, trailing her fingers along the metal. "This engraving.. It's in Pulsian?"

"Yeah. Says 'Invoke my name, I am spark.' Uh, old tradition where I'm from to put something fancy on the chosen weapon. Brings good luck and victory in battle and all that." The pinkette tested the blade, the weight of it being surprisingly light in her hands. If she was being honest, it was far superior to the one the GC issued her upon graduation.

She moved it around her and tried a few formations, marvelling at how natural the movements were, the blade becoming an extension of her body. Fang whistled low as she watched her. "Damn Light, I was gonna look into finding someone to train you properly in its use but it looks like that isn't needed." Lightning pressed a button as she swung the blade around, and it transformed into a gun.

"I've used blades in the past. Never a gunblade or uh, anything as nice as this but the basics are the same." Lightning shrugged, downplaying her accomplishments. In reality she'd graduated at the top of her class and was never bested by anyone during training, even the coaches themselves. She was no stranger to this weapon but this felt far higher quality than anything she owned.

"Fang I... Can't accept this. It's... Too nice." The Pulsian laughed and stepped close to her, and Lightning was all too aware of the wild scent of her tanned skin. Fang's hand brushed her shoulder and ran down her arm.

"It's the least I could do for everything you've done for us. For me. Please. It would mean the world to me if you accepted it."

Lightning swallowed hard and dropped her head. "Ok."

"That's more like it," Fang beamed and moved to her side, wrapping an arm around her shoulder. "Now. What are you going to name it?"

"Name it?" Lightning asked with a raised eyebrow.

"It's tradition in our family to name your weapon. Important rite of passage."

Lightning felt the hidden meaning of the words sink in. "Your family huh."

She felt Fang's hand under her chin, tilting her head up to meet piercing jade eyes. "You are a part of my family Light. Of our family, I mean." Lightning felt her cheeks flush as silence stretched between them. Her heart started to speed up as Fang began to slowly close the distance between them, eyes darting between each other's' lips. She felt herself lean forward unconsciously.

Just as she felt the ghost of Fang's lips on hers, the roof access door slamming open startled them both. Lightning jumped back away from Fang, suddenly very aware of their surroundings. "We're back!" Rikku yelled.

"Perfect fucking timing as always.." Fang muttered under her breath. The moment was gone however, with the pinkette resuming her tactical stoic expression and laying out her plans for the other two.

Lightning's heart was racing in her chest, at how close she came once more to crossing that line. But then she stopped and looked around at where she was, what she was doing, and who she was with. She realised that whatever line she kept looking for was long gone.

Chapter Text

Night fell and the four women had waited long enough. "Alright. Get in position you two. Let us know when the dogs have been sedated and you're ready to set off the bomb. We'll radio when we've broken the slaves out. Copy that Rikku?"

"No worries... Wait. Hang on guys there's a motorcade coming... One limo, four sedans. Looks import... Shit. Holy shit no way." Rikku whispered down the radio while Paine was hissing and cursing in the background.

"What is it? What's going on?" Lightning asked.

"You won't believe who just showed up. Yu fucking Yevon. Chairmen of the Yevon Corp out of Bevelle. Does he have ties with the Seraphim?"

Lightning was shocked. She quickly pulled out her phone and hit the recorder, before pocketing it again. "Why would Yu Yevon be out at a suspected slavery ring in a Seraphim owned shipping yard?"

"Should I care who this rich looking arsehole is?" Fang drawled, obviously bored. Lightning rolled her eyes and pulled out the binoculars, switching the night mode on.

"He's the CEO of one of the biggest development companies in Spira, and has been making headways into Cocoon and Pulse," Lightning replied as she scanned the site. "I've heard he employs aggressive tactics but this... Seems a tad excessive. Can you get audio on him Rikku?"

"Yeah he isn't exactly being quiet... Talking on the phone... Somebody named Bartholomew?"

The binoculars dropped from Lightning's hands in shock, only her quick reflexes managing to catch them again before they hit the ground. "You're joking." She balked, wide-eyed and anxious.

"Friend of yours?" Fang asked with a raised eyebrow. The pinkette shook her head.

"No, if he's talking about who I think he's talking about... Bartholomew Estheim would be the owner of the Academia Developments, Yu Yevon's main rivals here in Cocoon. His wife and son went missing about six months ago and... Oh shit. Fang, what if Yevon is responsible for their disappearance?"

"Then we will likely find evidence of that here in the yard." Fang replied solemnly as she checked her weapons. While they both were armed with their handguns if things escalated, for now they were going in quiet. The long red staff Fang strapped to her belt ended in two wicked curved blades at each end and clearly meant business.

"Dogs are out, the bombs will go off by the gate shortly, and with Yevon here it'll mean they'll scramble to get him out safely." Rikku called out down the receiver.

"Roger that Rikku. We'll make our way in now."

Fang and Lightning clipped the fence with cutters and crept into the confines of the shipping yard. They moved silently between crates and signalled to each other to keep moving forward when they confirmed all was clear. As they came to rest near their target location in the shadows, Lightning looked at Fang and smiled.


"Sorry?" The Pulsian queried as she moved closer to Lightning.

"You asked me what I was going to name the gunblade. Blazefire."

Fang smiled and again ran her hand down the pale arm. "Beautiful." She breathed, with anyone's guess as to whether she was referring to the weapon's name or the woman brandishing it.

An explosion sounded near the entrance of the yard, causing all the armed guards to rush towards the commotion. "Wow. That worked better than planned." Lightning muttered as they ran towards the large shipping container that was being guarded.

With the chaos unfolding in the yard, there was only two thugs guarding it. They were dispatched quickly with a flurry of Fang's lance, not wanting to waste time. They dropped to the ground, life bleeding out of them and Lightning winced. "This is what you signed up for..." She muttered to herself.

Fang yanked open the door and shone a torch inside, feeling her stomach drop. They found about fifteen unkempt captives all terrified and flinching at the light. "It's ok," Lightning said gently, "We're here to get you out and to safety." One of the captives started crying, babbling hysterically in another language.

"Bmayca ramb ic!"

"She's Al Bhed. Rikku will be able to talk with her." Fang supplied, unable to translate. They began to usher the people out of the container, directing them to where their vehicles waited outside the compound. Paine and Rikku were waiting for them, helping them into the vans.

One particular boy caught Lightning's eye and she gently placed a hand on his shoulder. "Hope? Hope Estheim?" The silver haired teen flinched at the sound of his name and turned towards her. "We'll get you home to your father ok? You've done well to keep it together this far." He simply nodded and got in the car. She turned to Rikku and nodded towards the vehicles.

"Get them back to the HQ on the double, point them towards a shower, change of clothes and a meal. Fang and I will grab the records from the office and meet you there." The blonde looked unsure about the deviation to the plan and looked to Fang for guidance.

"It's ok kiddo. Get these guys safe, we will get whatever we can to bring these guys down and find Yuna ok? One of the girls in there is an Al Bhed, might need to talk to her to calm her down."

Paine took Rikku by the shoulder and led her to the cars. As Fang and Lightning watched them drive away, they were able to get back to business. By this point, yelling had taken over the shipping yard as they discovered their shipping container of captives empty.

"The office is over on the far side of the yard, towards the harbour. This won't be as much of a smooth run." Lightning sighed. She felt Fang clasp her shoulder and look at her with firm eyes.

"If we have to.. Are you prepared to.."

She nodded, swallowing hard. "I don't think I'm ever going to be prepared to kill but I am prepared to get out of here with both of us alive and with the data we need."

Fang accepted the pragmatic response, and they crept back into the yard, trying their best to avoid the commotion from the panicking guards. They managed to avoid detection as they broke into the office, with the Pulsian keeping guard while Lightning searched for anything incriminating. She broke open the computer and took the hard drive, as well as a few documents that had Yevon's name all over them. Rejected proposals from Bartholomew Estheim for a buyout.

"Shit." Lightning breathed, "They killed his wife, and kidnapped his son. It's all here."

"Take it. Take all of it. We'll dump it all on the media's doorstep in the morning. No cover-up is going to stop this one."

Fang turned to grin at lightning, her smile faltering as she saw a red dot moving up the pinkette's chest.

"Light! Get down!" She leapt for the pale-skinned woman, pushing her out of the way and taking a bullet to the shoulder.


Shouts called out from around the compound, and Lightning could hear dozens of footsteps headed towards them. "Fang come on, we have to go!" The Pulsian groaned in response, clutching at her shoulder.

"Damn that hurts."

"You're an idiot. Let's get out of here." Lightning bundled up the evidence and hard drives, placing it in a waterproof bag in the satchel attached to her leg. Glass shattered as bullets razed the office from various directions. Without hesitating the pinkette drew her gunblade and let off a volley of shots through the now open window, knowing that she had at least hit a few of the Seraphim members in the process. She didn't care.

Lightning kicked open the back door and helped Fang outside, as she quickly weighed up her options. The butt of a gun came down on her head and she stumbled forward with the Pulsian in tow. The suited Seraphim aimed his weapon straight at Fang's head and the pinkette's vision hazed with anger. Flicking her wrist, Blazefire's blade swept out and knocked the gun from the thug's hand. She drew the sword across his throat without a second thought, and kicked him backwards down the adjacent stairs.

She looked around the compound for an escape route. Fang was losing a lot of blood and getting weaker on her feet. The wound was in her dominant arm so she couldn't even raise a gun to help. The harbour was the closest thing to them, so Lightning half-ran, half-dragged the brunette to the docks and leapt off the edge into the freezing water below.

"By Etro that's colder than a blizzaga." Fang chattered through her teeth. Lightning swam them underneath the docks as the gang thugs approached, spraying bullets into the water. There was a concrete overhang that she floated towards, keeping Fang close who was unable to swim with a busted shoulder. The concrete kept them hidden and safe as she treaded water for the both of them.

They were forced to hide for some time as guards searched nearby, with Fang getting progressively weaker from the injury. "Come on Fang, stay with me here.." Lightning whispered, holding onto the Pulsian tight around the waist as she wrapped Fang's good arm around her neck.

"T-t-trying…. C-cold…"

Lightning decided to swim for it, quietly moving them further down the docks until she was sure they were out of sight before making a break for the shoreline. Panting from exhaustion, she dragged Fang up the bank and shook her gently. "Fang, hey! Come on... Wake up!" There was no response from the Pulsian. She pulled her phone out of her waterproof pocket with a curse or ten, and dialled Paine's number. As the phone rang she heard screeching tires in the distance.

"What's your status?" Paine drawled down the phone.

Lightning grunted as she pulled Fang behind some crates when she saw a few sedans pull up near the embankment and Seraphim members spilled out of them. "Somewhere between screwed and completely fucked." She hissed, checking the ammo in her weapon. "We're just down from the docks, Fang's injured and I'm running out of bullets."

"Shit. Keep your line open, we'll track you and be there in a minute. Lightning, make sure Fang is still alive when we get there, or you won't be."

The pinkette growled and put her phone down next to Fang, ensuring she didn't hang up so they could be traced. She heard the gang lieutenants coming closer, and put a hand over Fang's mouth to stifle the groan that escaped her throat. "Light.. What…" She murmured, wincing in pain from the injury.

"I need you to stay put, and try to stay awake for me Fang. I… Need to... Just stay there ok?" She said with a deep breath, and stood to edge herself to the corner of crates. Fang seemed to regain more awareness as she felt the loss of heat from her companion, and she clawed at the air to try to pull her back.

"Light… Where... are you..?"

Lightning turned to her with a wistful smile. "Keeping a promise to keep you safe." She flicked her wrist and extended the blade on her weapon and tore from the darkness, into the group of Seraphim. Her footsteps crunched into the gravel and she came into view when she ran in front of a set of headlights.

She leapt straight into the path of one of the thugs, slicing her gunblade across his chest, and then kicking a foot into the side of his knee cap, rendering him immobile. Using the momentum as leverage she slid over the bonnet of one of the cars and rolled to avoid the gun fire. The footsteps of a Seraphim kicked the gravel loose as he ran around the side of the car, firing his weapon. Lightning flicked a switch on her weapon to reveal the gun and fired three shots into his chest as he came into view, dropping him before he had a chance to get a shot in.

An approaching van could be heard nearby, and Lightning hoped to Etro that it was Paine. She stood and jumped over the bonnet of the car and brought her blade back around, plunging it into a combatant's chest. Pulling it out and flicking back to a gun, she emptied the last of her clip into a Seraphim's chest behind her, ignoring the burning pain in her arm from one of his bullets hitting her.

As the van came to a screeching halt Lightning used the last of her strength to take out the last of her enemies, slashing him across the stomach. She stood silently, shoulders heaving as she attempted to catch her breath. As the lights from Paine's van hit her, the silver-haired woman's view of Lightning was positively intimidating and terrifying. Blood ran down her arm and from her blade, dripping onto the ground below. Though she was breathing heavily, the savage look on her face from the adrenaline gave Paine a moment of pause. Viper or not, this was clearly not someone she wanted to get on the wrong side of.

The pinkette's vision was clearing, and the ringing in her ears began to subside. She slowly looked around her at the devastation she'd caused, the night suddenly becoming clear, and silent.

"Light.. You..." Fang's voice croaked from over by the crates, staring wide eyed and in awe. Lightning quickly sheathed her weapon and ran to her.

Paine jumped out of the passenger side and raced over to them both, helping carry Fang to the van. "Shit we leave you guys for like five minutes.." she muttered as she loaded Fang into the back seat. "What the hell happened? She's freezing! It's like touching a block of ice!"

"She pushed me out of the way of a sniper, got caught in the shoulder," Lightning replied, furrowing her brow in concern, "We had to make a break for the harbour and hide in the water until it was safe to escape."

"The ice cold water is what's probably saved her ass... The hypothermia is likely stopped her from bleeding out. Get in the back with her. Try to keep her warm." Lightning complied with Paine's request, jumping in first and carefully pulling Fang against her. The silver haired woman was right, Fang's skin was freezing to touch. She wrapped her arms around the unusually pale skin, and rubbed gently, trying to get warmth back into the Pulsian's limbs.

"Hey, Palazzo." Paine's voice brought Lightning's attention to the red-hued eyes staring at her in the rear view mirror. "I… Don't normally say this but… I'm sorry. I saw you on the approach taking on those assholes to protect Fang. I'm sorry I doubted you Lightning. You're definitely one of us."

Lightning only nodded in acknowledgement and looked back down at the Pulsian in her arms. "It's ok Fang, we're almost home." She whispered while staying as close as she could, unconsciously kissing her on the temple. Crisis averted for the time being, she had saved Fang, saved the slaves and gotten herself clear of Paine's suspicions.

But maybe the silver-haired brusque woman was right. No GC cop in their right mind… Maybe she wasn't in her right mind at all at this point. Right now she wasn't Officer Claire Farron, so deep undercover she couldn't see the surface anymore. She didn't care. Right now she was Lightning, Fang's right hand woman and likely far more than that.

Paine watched her from the rear view mirror and looked over at Rikku.

"Yeah no cop would look at a crim like she is looking at the boss... God dammit. I think I owe you five bucks."

The van slammed through the tunnels and came to a stop in the parking bays. Paine helped Lightning get Fang out of the car and carried her to the infirmary. The doctor from the Warrens had already been called and was waiting for them as they laid the Pulsian on the table.

"Clean through from the looks of things. She's lost a lot of blood but it's missed all the important things. The blood loss will be a problem though unless I can get a donor."

Lightning didn't even hesitate. She sat on the bed opposite and removed her long sleeved shirt. "I'm a universal type so take mine. My fault the idiot is in this mess in the first place." The doctor simply nodded and went to work preparing a transfusion. As he moved out of the way however, Lightning glanced over to find Fang awake and staring at her with an unreadable expression.

"You ok Light?" She croaked with a hoarse voice. The doctor hushed her and moved the beds closer together.

"We've only got one heat blanket and you both need it so deal with sharing." He said gruffly while he got a needle ready. With two quick jabs the cannulas were in both arms and he allowed the machine to begin doing its job. "Everybody out, leave them alone to rest. I'll be back shortly to check on the transfusion but now unless you currently have a needle in your arm get out of the infirmary!"

The gruff old man shooed everyone out until Fang and Lightning were left alone. Lightning felt a shuffling next to her until Fang was a lot closer on the beds that were now fastened together. "I saw you… What you did… Are you ok?" she asked quietly, looking down at the blood moving between the tubes in their arms. Lightning shrugged and looked away.

"It was them or us Fang, I can shelve my feelings on killing for five minutes if it meant getting out alive. I'm… sorry I got you shot." The pinkette inhaled sharply as she felt a hand entwine hers, tangling their fingers.

"Wasn't your fault love," She whispered as she fought back a yawn, "Would have gotten you right through the heart if I hadn't have gotten you out of the way in time. Never would have allowed that to happen. The only one who should be allowed anywhere near your heart is me."

Lightning stared. "What did you say?" She said hurriedly. A light snore met her response. She could feel her heart thumping in her chest at Fang's sleepy admission. A part of her was terrified of what it meant for her undercover operation, but a part of her was equally terrified of what it meant to feel excited by the brunette's remarks.

The doctor came back in and unhooked the tubes, instructing them to stay in the infirmary overnight. As he left, Lightning tried to settle back in and held her breath when Fang stirred and moved closer, curling up and resting her head on the pinkette's chest. Lightning moved her uncaptured arm around Fang and pulled her close to get comfortable.

"Hey, Light?"

She grunted in response, too tired to form words.

"Thank you.. For everything. I'm really grateful you kicked the shit out of that Paddra bitch so we could meet."

"It's… that's ok. She had it coming."

Fang chuckled and then went silent again. Lightning knew she was still awake though, and waited.

"You still awake Sunshine?"

"Yeah, what's up?"

"Thanks for… saving my arse earlier."

"Well don't make a habit out of it ok?" Lightning gently chastised, a smile evident on her face. Fang chuckled then went back to sleep, still holding the pinkette's hand and listening to her heartbeat.

Chapter Text

The doctor had given them the all clear the following morning. Lightning's arm injury was thankfully little more than a stitch job on the side of her arm, and Fang's slightly more severe injury meant she had to spend a week or two in an arm sling. Three days into her "containment", the restriction to her mobility made her even more annoying than usual from her boredom.

"Fang for Etro's sake can't you just go for a walk or something? Read a book!" Rikku complained from across the room. Hope was sitting off in a corner with her, and couldn't help but laugh a little at the display.

"You're ... You're all not anything like I expected." He admitted quietly, "The media isn't very kind to you." Rikku smiled and shrugged her shoulders.

"Look we're not exactly a bleeding hearts heroes for hire business here. We're still criminals, still operating outside the law. But you know, we have our rules- no civilians harmed, no human trafficking, try to avoid law enforcement death where possible… Unless they're on the Fal'Cie payroll then all bets are off…" She explained as Hope's shoulders sank. "Hey, I'd rather be honest with you so you don't get a rose-coloured glasses type view of what we are."

Hope conceded the point, thankful for the honesty. He cast his gaze back over at the brunette scampering about the room and wondered how someone could have such polar opposite behaviours between being violent and jovial, all seemingly with the flick of a switch.

Lightning entered the room, having showered and changed for the day. Fang bounded over like a gorgonopsid pup and put an arm around the pinkette's waist. She received a scowl for her efforts as Lightning attempted to swat her arm away.

"Anyone would think you were given caffeine instead of blood in that transfusion Fang.."

"Well with the way you drink coffee it's definitely a possibility."

Rolling her eyes, Lightning went to wiggle out of the determined grasp but not before Fang got the last word in. "Besides... What can I say," she purred next to the pale ear, lips close enough to touch, "Maybe just having you inside me is just too... Mmmm... Invigorating."

Blushing to her roots, Lightning smacked Fang in her good arm and stormed off. Hope watched Fang chase after her and shook his head. Rikku brought her knees up and wrapped her arms around them on the chair. "Hey Hope, did you happen to have a girl with you, about our age... Named Yuna? She had one green eye and one blue eye."

Hope shook his head and Rikku's heart dropped. "No," he said, "But one of the girls was talking about someone fitting that description because she was the only one who understood that Al Bhed girl. She was... Sold off to a slave trader north of Luxerion, he was headed out towards the Dead Dunes. I'm sorry I couldn't be of any further help."

Her eyes lit up. This was the closest lead they'd gotten since they were taken. She leapt over and hugged him tightly. "You've helped more than you know. Dryhg oui."

Hope smiled and patted her hand. "Oui'na famlusa."

"Light! Hey wait up!" Fang jogged after the pinkette as she marched away with balled fists. She chased her into the cavern, where she discovered Lightning liked to go to relax or think. Or in this instance, to calm down. She reached out with her good arm and clutched at Lightning's wrist. "Please slow down? I'm sorry if I... Crossed a line before. I didn't mean to upset you."

Lightning turned with a glare, ready to rip into the obnoxious Pulsian but any angry retort died on her lips when she saw Fang's sadness in her eyes and that damnable pout.

"I really didn't mean anything by it Light... It's actually a pretty big deal where I'm from. If you mix blood I mean."

The pinkette sat down in her usual spot on the rocks, took off her boots and socks and dangled her feet in the water. The cool liquid acted as a salve to her frayed nerves. "How do you mean a big deal?" she asked with mild concern.

Fang took a seat next to her and nudged her shoulder. "Well I mean I know I've already said I consider you a part of the family but you unintentionally made it official. We share the same blood and are bound by it now whether you like it or not." She smiled and stretched, watching the water ripple with the small movements of their limbs.

"Goddess. I haven't inexplicably married you or whatever the equivalent is from your clan have I?" Lightning asked with a horrified expression. Fang's laughter rang out and echoed off the cavern walls and she placed her head on the pinkette's shoulder, fluttering her eyelashes up at her.

"No Sunshine, we wouldn't be married. But would that really be so bad?" She joked with a wink. Lightning rolled her eyes and clenched her jaw, realising that anything she said would only provoke Fang further.

Tanned legs moved in the water and the Pulsian sighed contentedly. "According to legend, we were created by Etro spilling her blood to make the first humans. Blood is very sacred, at least to the people of Pulse. Yes there is a binding of blood as part of a marriage ceremony in my clan. But it's also used in adoption rituals, and you are welcomed into their family. If you give a part of your essence to save another that person is indebted to you. You have willingly given a part of yourselves to them, and in turn they must give a part of themselves to you until the debt is paid."

"How viscerally romantic..." Lightning muttered while she thought about the unnerving mystical allegory behind the gesture. She was never much of a believer to begin with, but there was still something that moved her about the symbolism about giving a part of herself to Fang. It scared her a little, to think that she was giving herself to the Pulsian, and it scared her even more that she was ok with that thought.

"So what can we do about the information we obtained?" she asked, to steer the conversation in a different direction. Fang was leaning back on her arms, staring at the cavern ceiling.

"I've already got Lebreau on the way up to Palumpolum to pick up Mr Estheim, he'll probably be safer here with his son running his company underground. If they can't find him, they can't kill him. Poor bastard's already lost his wife from that arsehole Yevon, and he is one of the better corporates." They both got up and side by side began to make their way back to the hall.

In such a short span of time the gang had grown to a respectable size. That they could delegate and organise and be a force to be reckoned with gave Lightning a moment to stop and look over the main hall. Gone were the trash piles, boards and scaffolding and in place was clean polished floors, immaculate decor and busy people everywhere. One could easily mistake the surroundings for a well ran corporation rather than a rough shot group of gang members.

A couple of hours later, Lightning found herself in the archives. Trailing a finger along the books on the shelves, browsing for nothing in particular. As she rounded the corner, she nearly tripped over the young silver-haired boy who had taken refuge in the aisles with a datapad.

"Oh! Hope I'm so sorry I didn't see you there." Lightning exclaimed. The boy shrugged and kept his head down.

"It's ok. Sorry if I'm in the way I just needed somewhere… quiet." He wore a forlorn expression and his shoulders were hunched like he was trying to curl into himself. Lightning sat down beside him and looked him over.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"What's there to talk about?" He replied a little curtly, "Mom's gone, dad is nowhere to be found, and I am a guest of a criminal organisation. How am I to know I haven't just been caught up in a turf war and am about to be sold off to the highest bidder? Just because I'm out of Yevon's hands doesn't mean I'm any safer."

Lightning tilted her head, conceding the point. "It is a valid concern I'll admit. However. For starters you wouldn't be given a datapad that has access to the outside world, nor would we be just letting you meander about the place without supervision. If you really want to leave Hope, nobody here will stop you. We have a few people out in Palumpolum picking your dad up to bring him here to reunite you guys."

"How am I supposed to believe that after everything that has happened?" He sighed, clenching and unclenching his fingers.

"Everyone here has experienced loss Hope. I was about your age by the time both of my parents were gone. You build a family out of more than just who you're related to. If you have friends to build a support network then you will not be alone."

She placed a hand on his shoulder as he looked up at her.

"I won't force you to believe anything Hope, you're free to make up your own mind. But as long as you're here with us I won't allow any harm to come to you. If you'll have me, I would like to be your friend."

"Hey Light! You in here?" a voice called out from the entrance, from one of the prospects. "We're looking for Hope, his dad's here." The boy tensed immediately and hovered close to the pinkette. She gently guided him by the shoulders out of the library, staying close to him to provide support. As the two arrived at the main hall, she saw Fang in deep conversation with a tall man with silvery blonde hair.

"So what is your asking price?" The man said gruffly, fists balled. The Pulsian raised her eyebrows and shook her head.

"What? No old man, we didn't do this for money. We brought you here so you could get your son back." Fang replied while shaking her hands in front of her. Bartholomew looked at her dubiously as the pinkette walked into the room with his son.

Fang looked towards Lightning and cerulean eyes met her own, relief filling her features. The Pulsian nodded towards the two by the entrance, directing his gaze towards them. The man turned around and Lightning felt Hope tense beneath her hand. She squeezed his shoulder in reassurance before letting it go, smiling gently at him.

"Hope!" The older man cried and ran towards the boy, falling to his knees and clutching at his shirt. "Thank the Gods you're safe. I've been so worried.." The silver haired teen dropped to the ground with his head bowed.

"Mom... She didn't make it. They killed her." He said softly, with a quiet rage shaking his voice.

"I know son. I know. I am just so grateful to these people that they rescued you before they took you from me as well." Hope looked back towards Lightning, seeking reassurance as Fang approached her side.

"Look kid," The Pulsian said gently, "We may not be the most ethical bunch in the world but we don't and never will engage in slave trading. That shit is abhorrent. You guys are free to go if you wish, I understand if you need to make yourselves scarce. But you are also welcome to stay, and we will keep you both safe from that bastard Yevon until he's taken down."

Bartholomew just knelt there, shaking as he hugged the air out of his son. "I'm so sorry I left you and your mother alone. I should have been with you. I should have... Should have.."

Hope looked around at the small crowd that had gathered, some of which were the young men and women that were with him at the shipping yard. They looked so much better than when they were huddled in that container; clean, clothed, fed and looked after. Maybe they were right. Lightning seemed to him to hold high ethics and morals, as did Fang in a somewhat cruder sense. They had not once targeted civilians or allowed them to be caught in the crossfire, and had single-handedly cleaned up and provided a better life for those in the Warrens.

"You couldn't have done anything dad. They would have killed you too." Hope said while standing up and helping his father to his feet. "Fang, you said you had the facilities to keep us safe and keep the company running from here?"

The Pulsian perked up at the sound of her name and nodded. "We've got an empty server room and communications. We could build a self-contained city down here if we really felt like it but, eh. I like me some sunshine." She grinned at the pinkette and wiggled her eyebrows, receiving a scowl in response.

"Dad, let's stay. There's something going on in Eden which is destroying lives. I.. Want to help them. Let's get our servers from the head office so the data will be safe, and let's work with them."

Bartholomew looked over at Lightning and Fang, and extended his hand to the Pulsian. "It's the least we could do for saving your life Hope." The two shook and the crowd around them erupted. Someone started blaring music and the other rescued captives started dancing, pulling Rikku and Paine into the thick of it.

Fang decided to retreat to her room at this point, overwhelmed by all the noise. Lightning followed suit, worried about the sudden shift in demeanour. The Pulsian welcomed her company but didn't say anything.

"What about Rikku and her cousin?" Lightning asked as they walked.

Fang shrugged. "She told me that Hope gave her a lead that she may be up near Ruffian. Desert town in the middle of way too much sand for my liking. I'm going to send Gadot up with a couple of the boys to scope it out and rescue if they can."

"I would.. Like to be there to help if I can," the pinkette offered, bringing a small smile to the Yun's face. They came to a stop at the bedroom door. "Fang, are you ok?"

The Pulsian adjusted her arm in the sling and turned the knob. "Yeah, I will be. Just… The whole family thing. Makes me miss Vanille. I hate that we're apart." Lightning squeezed her good shoulder gently.

"Maybe we can arrange for you two to get together outside of Eden? Like how you did for me and Serah?"

Fang smiled and wrapped an arm around the pinkette's lower spine. "You do have the best ideas Sunshine." She purred, feeling better at the attempts of comfort. Lightning blushed and looked away. The more she looked into those green eyes lately the more she was having trouble restraining herself. The movement wasn't missed by Fang and she made a frustrated noise in the back of her throat.

"Light.. How much longer are you going to fight yourself for this?" The Pulsian queried earnestly, sensing the inner conflict from the fact that those cerulean eyes kept darting back to her lips and looking away.


Fang sighed and untangled herself. "I really don't get you sometimes Palazzo," She said with a huff. Lighting was caught off guard from the use of her "formal name" and looked up at the brunette's serious gaze. "Why do you continuously deny yourself the things you want? You're a fucking criminal Aranea. Take some initiative and take. What. You want."

Aranea… Why is she calling me… That's not my name, my name is… Ligh… She staggered back from Fang's intense scrutiny, feeling disorientated. "I have to go." She said weakly before disappearing down the hallway.

"For fuck's sake.." The Pulsian rolled her eyes and scowled, kicking the door shut.

AN -  ANGST. Flight angst? Flangst? FLANGST! Aw shiiiz. Have I tortured you enough with this yet? No. No I haven't. Comment! Subscribe! If I know people are actually reading this fkn thing it gives me more of a kick in the pants to finish it. hoorayimuseful dot tumblr for related updates and arrrrrt.

Chapter Text

Cid folded his hands together and rested his mouth against them at his desk. "I have… Concerns, Claire." Lightning sat across from him in the office, arms folded defensively. She said nothing, but her eyes flicked to Jihl who was standing behind him, looking smug.

"We're considering extracting you." Amodar said from beside her, a solemn expression on his face. Lightning's eyebrows raised and she stared at him dubiously.

"You're kidding me right?"

Cid sighed and leant back in his chair as he pulled some surveillance photos out of the drawer. He placed them across the desk and Lightning felt ice in her veins. Numerous images of her and Fang together. From the bank heist. From the shipping yard, a series of photos of her slitting the throat of a Seraphim. Down in the Warrens conversing with various members of NORA, collecting protection money from businesses, wheeling and dealing on behalf of Fang.

"We have reason to believe you're being compromised. You're getting too close, too invested in NORA's activities. These images support the theory."

Lightning bristled in her chair and clenched her jaw. Taking a few deep breaths, she calmed herself and looked at him coldly. "Permission to speak freely, sir?"

Cid nodded and gestured for her to proceed.

"With all due respect sir, you threw me into a position with a profile created by someone who took a half-assed approach and obviously didn't do their research on the type of personality Yun Fang fits." She glared at Jihl who was seething from behind the commander. Lightning folded her hands over her lap and continued.

"Then, unbeknownst to anyone, Yun Fang had already been planning an escape for months and enacted that scheme while I was already doing my job. You could have extracted me then, but you told me to proceed and go into deep cover. I haven't seen my sister in months, and she probably thinks I'm dead. I don't remember what my house looks like."

Rygdea was leant against a shelf behind her, giving Cid a pointed stare. Even Amodar was looking uncomfortable.

"You saw the opportunity to take out the other gangs and get to the bottom of who was bankrolling them and had me go deeper. I found the Fal'Cie were behind this little syndicate, and you told me to go deeper. Considering you originally threw me into the hole at the Gallies to essentially be a piece of ass for Yun Fang, I fail to see how me following my mission to the orders I've been given is my issue."

Cid turned briefly to regard Jihl, who looked beyond enraged. "Nabaat, while your surveillance images brought some… Interesting concepts… To the table, I am lead to accept Claire's valid and clear rebuttal."

Jihl folded her arms and hissed through her teeth before storming from the office. Lightning's eyes followed the woman's departure, waiting until the door slammed to explode. "Does anyone want to explain what that woman's issue is? I mean seriously. She gives me that bullshit profile to try and work Yun Fang over with, then she insists on constantly trying to undermine me. It's risking my fucking life here and I'm sick of it."

Cid raised his hand to silence her. "Thank you Farron. Consider your permission to speak freely now revoked. I need to know however, are you sure you're ok?"

Lightning narrowed her eyes and suppressed a snarl. "What would you have me do Cid? Even if I am up to my eyeballs in gangland bullshit, look at the impact to the Children of Etro, the Seraphim. Look at everything we've uncovered about Yu Yevon and his murder of Bartholomew Estheim's wife and kidnapping of their son Hope? Would you have gotten as far I have with all of your procedure and red tape? Would you have cared to?"

She stood and walked to the door, ignoring Amodar's hand that reached to stop her. She twisted the door knob but hesitated, turning slightly but not looking at any of them. "You can't sit there and tell me that you'd prefer I operate with more discretion when I'm meant to be a fucking criminal. One slip up and I'm dead. Serah's dead. Anyone I ever came into contact with, likely dead. I don't forget what Yun Fang is Director Raines. Neither should you."

The door slammed with all the force she could muster and stalked from the office. Taking the elevator to the garage Lightning made a path for the exit. She slowed however when she came across a sleek black sedan that she recognised the plates of. A slow grin crept over the pinkette's face as she ran her hand along the bonnet.

"Well, I do need a reason for being here..." She said to herself with a laugh, and pulled out her toolkit from her pocket. Working quickly, Lightning jimmied open the hood and disabled the alarm before making quick work of the car door. The elevator doors opened to find Cid, Rygdea and Jihl walking out towards the car, all three stopping when they saw Lightning behind the wheel.

Nabaat's face contorted into one of pure fury as Lightning sparked the wires and kicked the engine into gear. The pinkette pulled out of the car park and wound the window down. "Sorry Jihl, I'm gonna need an excuse for being in this side of town. Can't promise you'll get it back in one piece.." She purred, burning the tyres as she screeched out of the parking garage.

Rygdea leant over towards Cid and flinched as Jihl began to scream into her phone for squad cars to pursue her now stolen vehicle. "We're… Sure Farron isn't compromised… Right?" Raines shook his head and walked away to his own car, choosing to make himself scarce before Nabaat finished her phone call.

Lightning sped through the streets, laughing maniacally from the adrenaline rush of putting the commander in her place. Sirens blared behind her as several cars were in pursuit, and she grinned. Tightening her hands on the steering wheel she growled and hit the accelerator, taking off at speed. They chased her down the highway on her way back towards the Warrens, Jihl's super-charged engine no match for the generic squad cars. Lightning glanced at the passenger seat where she'd put her phone when it started ringing. She answered and put it on speaker.

"Little busy at the moment, what can I do for you?"

"Claire? What's going on?" Her sister's voice called out from the phone. Lightning smiled and swerved to avoid a passing car as she crossed over to the wrong side of the highway.

"Stole Jihl Nabaat's car. Currently outrunning the GC."

Serah could be heard counting under her breath before she spoke again. "You're going to get yourself caught or worse, killed! Claire… Remember we spoke about this, about the blurred lines…"

"To hell with the lines!" Lightning snapped, startling her sister into silence. "I am so sick of people telling me I need to be mindful of the damn line! I can't be two people and stay sane, or alive for that matter. So don't ask me to!"


"I know alright? I know everything's fucked and I'm losing myself. I'm not stupid. You're right ok? The lines are blurring, I can't look at the gang anymore without feeling like I'm a part of their family, it's all fucked and you were right. Happy? I'm just… Trying to survive." She said, voice hoarse and cracking towards the end.

"Sis… I'm sorry… I didn't mean-"

"Serah I have to go, I need to concentrate or I'm not going to lose these guys. I will talk to you later." Lightning hung up before her sister could say anything further. She fought against the tears stinging her vision and took a hard right through traffic, narrowly avoiding getting hit by a passing truck.

The phone rang again and Lightning answered it without thinking, scowling at the device. "What." She snapped bluntly, not looking at who was on the ID.


The husky, curious accented voice felt like a salve to Lightning's wounded heart and she sighed contentedly, feeling the tension drain from her shoulders just from the presence. "Fang…" She said breathlessly, welcoming the Pulsian's company over the phone.

Fang never once judged her, she supported her, let her be free… well of course she did. She had no reason to suspect Lightning was anything other than a criminal, anyone other than Aranea Palazzo. But would she judge GC Officer Claire Farron?

She'd likely skip the judgement and go straight to the execution.

But even still, when Lightning could suppress that anxiety and ignore the stupid line she was constantly reminded of, they were doing good for the Warrens, exposing corruption in the city. Were they really criminals or more vigilante territory now? They were doing good, weren't they?

"Rough day?" Fang queried with an amused tint to her voice.

"How could you tell?" Lightning chuckled, wiping the tears from her eyes with a free hand. She heard Fang hum down the phone and wished the brunette was sitting next to her.

"Well, you're on the news for one thing. Your sister is going to have a fit you know…"

Lightning peered out the window to see a helicopter flying high above her, with the Channel 13 logo on the side of it. She frowned at it, as if willing it from the sky and sighed. "She already did."

There was a noticeable pause before Fang spoke again, Lightning could tell she had her hand over the microphone talking to someone in the background. "Don't mind me, just organising an escape route for you. Take the next left and we'll have a tunnel access point open for you. Make sure there's enough distance so the cops can't follow. The entry point is under a bridge so the news chopper won't see you either."

Lightning was relieved, and so tired. She was tired of being pulled in every direction, told about lines and boundaries and repeatedly reminded of the danger she was in while undercover.

"So tell me Sunshine, what's a gorgeous woman like you being pursued by the local law?"

"I uh…. Took an opportunity to enact revenge on Nabaat for her bullshit in prison."

"….. What."

Lightning shrugged, despite nobody being around to see it. "I went hunting after hearing from a contact she was in town. I… Couldn't resist the opportunity. So I stole her car. In Psicom's parking garage. Just as she came down. Worth it to see her stupid smug face."

"Again! Light! You're kidding! You're fucking amazing!"

Fang's laughter rang out and the sound enveloped Lightning's rapidly beating heart. She gripped the wheel tightly and fought back tears once more. Not able to recall the last time she felt like she was an undercover agent working for Psicom, Lightning stifled a sob and gritted her teeth.

Fang heard the noise however, and grew concerned. "Light… Are you ok?"


"Hm." The Pulsian replied. "Not too far to go now. Come home to me sweetheart."

Come home… The words reverberated through Lightning's mind and wrapped themselves into every crevasse.

"Ok." She said quietly and turned into the alleyway. Sure enough the access point was open and ready to go, and she sped through it, eyes adjusting to the darkness as it closed behind her.

"Nice one! Haha, the local news is freaking and calling you a ghost. That's so brill. I'll see you in a bit." The phone clicked and once more Lightning was alone. She drove down the dark access tunnels until she came to more modern structures and realised she was approaching the base. Turning into the garage she parked the car and killed the engine. She threw the keys at one of the NORA kids as she exited the vehicle, letting them salivate over the high performance vehicle.

"Do what you want with it. I'd prefer to see it in pieces. Save me the ignition so I can mail it to the bitch commander." She growled at the youth holding the keys and he nodded nervously. Lightning turned to head to the exit to find Fang hanging off the railings by the stairwell, looking coy.

"Sunshine, I do love it when you get all… aggressive. I gotta tell you, it's hot." She purred as the pinkette approached. Fang's grin faltered when she saw the expression on her face. The sad look in her eyes was enough to make her forget the previous night's frustrations against the woman and she reached out for Lightning.

"Fang…" Lightning whispered and took the offered hand. The Pulsian pulled her close and wiped the tears from her cheeks with a gentle thumb. Her head tilted curiously as she regarded the pinkette.

"Light.. What happened? You have a fight with your sister?" a nod met her words, the only response she was going to get. She drew the pinkette into her with an arm softly around her neck and kissed her on the head. "Come on Light, let's go get a drink and you can tell me about Nabaat's stupid smug face in great detail." Fang said with a nudge of her hips, and Lightning smiled softly, spirits being lifted just for being in her presence.

She could deal with the lines later.

"We've gotta get some more supplemental income coming through here. The infrastructure builds are eating up that heist money pretty quickly, and then we likely won't have another chance to hit a bank up again for another… Withdrawal…" Fang said with a smirk as she put her feet up on her desk.

Lebreau was visiting and was seated across from her in Fang's office, filing her nails. She tried to keep her distance to stay out of the conflict but her devotion to Gadot and endless patience she possessed for her Pulsian friend seemed to have her right back in the thick of it again.

"Well you've got the usual channels, drugs, car boosts, contracts, prostitution.. Take your pick Fang." She replied, throwing the file down on the desk in front of her.

The Pulsian's nose crinkled and she adjusted her arm in the sling. "Drugs… Nothing injectable or easy to OD on, and not something that prices people out of the stuff. We want return clients for a good time, not junkies or elitist dickheads from the city centre."

Lebreau thought about it for a moment before snapping her fingers. "The Behemoth Kings. They've got the market on Echo Grass. Good party drug, mild hallucinogen in higher doses but nothing too severe. Particularly popular amongst the academic crowd."

Fang nodded, happy with that. "Ok, I'll get someone onto some research for it." She said, holding up a hand in greeting as Rikku, Paine and Lightning walked into the room.

Fang waved them all in and glanced at the others. Paine and Rikku crashed on the dark couch on one side of the room, while Lightning hovered at the doorway. The pinkette looked as if she felt out of place, and had been keeping her distance from everyone over the last couple of days.

Fang noticed the distance straight away and frowned. She wasn't sure what was causing Lightning's down mood, and hadn't managed to coax it out of her the other night. Between them they managed to polish off a bottle of vodka after the impromptu high profile car theft. However if anything, the more intoxicated Lightning got the more aware of her words she was. She became depressed and even more closed off. The complete opposite of her plan to get her to loosen up.

"Rikku, what do you know about Echo Grass?" Fang asked, pulling her attention away from the skittish looking Cocoonian by the door. The blonde's eyes lit up.

"Beyond that it's a good way to spend a Friday night?" She pulled a stick out from one of her pockets on her belt and Paine retrieved a lighter from Fang's desk. Rikku lit it with a sultry smile at the silver-haired woman and took a drag before passing it to her. She exhaled the smoke with a contented sigh and continued.

"The Behemoth Kings are the only ones who have it in play in the field. I cut what I get with some other herbal mixtures to lessen the punch, they seem to have a concoction that makes the high hard and fast in a standard dose, which has people coming back for more. Turning a good time into a vice, essentially."

Paine inhaled the echo grass mixture and leant back into the chair once she'd passed it over to Lebreau. "Rikku and I spent a few months perfecting our personal stash to dull it a little so it isn't so intense, stretch the high out a little longer and not have to use as much of the grass. Made it last longer."

Lightning was watching the drug being passed around the room and swallowed hard. She knew that they'd put possession on her manufactured rap sheet, but with all the lines she was crossing with this assignment, imbibing drugs wasn't something she was willing to do. It was high enough risk to let Fang keep pouring drinks the other night, let alone any kind of drug that would lower inhibitions and potentially loosen tongues. Sadly, it was going to look damn suspicious if she refused it. She swallowed hard and debated faking a phone call, something, anything so she wouldn't have to go anywhere near the stuff.

Fang had gotten up and walked over to the doorway, offering the smoke in hand with a raised eyebrow. "You know you can come into the office and stop looking like you're about to bolt, Light.." She said quietly to the pink-haired woman as the others talked about recipes in the background. "Maybe this will help you relax a bit, you're so bloody tense you look like you're going to snap in half."

Lightning hesitantly took the joint and stared at it. Fang furrowed her brow and looked her over. "Sunshine... I've seen your deets. You're no stranger to this stuff, what's the issue? Nobody has germs and Paine's arsehole behaviour isn't contagious I swear."

Drawing a shaky breath she shook her head. "It's nothing I.. Um. No it's… It's fine." Lightning replied as she took the smoke to her mouth. Before she could inhale however, Fang plucked it from her hand and took a drag herself.

"How long as it been since you've had anything more than alcohol?" She asked with concern. Lightning stammered and scratched at her arm.

"Whenever the possession charge was on the sheet. I… haven't…"

"Right. Look on your face says it all. Bad history." She exhaled the smoke away from Lightning's face and snuffed the joint out between her fingers. A couple of protests sounded around the room and Fang shook her head. "Nah, we're gonna respect Light here. She can't have the stuff so we won't either. Go smoke it outside later on away from her." She said resolutely and led the pinkette further into the office as she sat back down at her desk.

Lightning's eyes widened as she sat in the chair in the corner behind Fang. She hadn't expected to dodge that bullet, let alone in that way. Her heart thudded in her chest as she settled into the seat.

"Alright. So Rikku, Paine, you can look after anything to do with the Behemoth Kings and their stashes. What else we got? Lebreau, you mentioned prostitution earlier, what have we got at our disposal there?"

Lightning's eyebrows raised as Lebreau casually started rattling off the lay of the land. Fang nodded along, raising a few concerns here and there.

"Ok so only those that want to do it. No slaves, no trafficked people, no addicts and no people trying to pay off debts with this being their last resort. We want to make sure these women and men are looked after properly, safe business operations. Health care, appropriate remunerations, protection and swift retribution for any clients that try to push the envelope too far."

Paine raised her hand lazily, with a contented smile on her face, presumably from the Echo Grass hitting her. "I may be able to help with that if you're willing to meet with her.." She drawled and Rikku winced. Fang's expression darkened and she folded her arms, leaning back in her chair.

"I dunno Paine, is your sister going to be any more of an arsehole than last time?" She growled, shoulders squared in a defiant stance. Rikku looked over at her partner like she was mad for suggesting it, and Paine simply shrugged.

"Hey, it's not her fault she took her cut and ran when the gangs were collapsing. She had to make a choice between you, or her girls. What did you think she was going to do?"

The Pulsian huffed and pouted, conceding the point despite the hurt. "Fine. Set up a meeting. We'll see what she's got to bring to the table and what we can offer as… Reparations."

Lightning caught Lebreau's eyes and raised an eyebrow at whatever was transpiring between the two women. Lebreau shook her head, implying not to ask. The pinkette shrugged and settled further into the seat.

"Light. You're the car queen here, you up for heading up the chop shop?" Fang barked to change the subject rapidly, clearly irritated. Lightning jumped in her seat and fidgeted with her hands.

"Uh, yeah I guess." She replied nervously. It was rare that Fang was in these aggressive moods and she tried to keep her distance from them while they were in prison, but there was no solitary confinement to threaten her with here.

"Good. You'll be responsible for collecting them for the boys. Someone will get you a list by the end of the day, then you can go hunting." Fang said curtly, before pushing back from her desk and standing up. "Meeting's done, go do what you gotta do." She walked out before anyone could move and left a quiet room in her wake.

Rikku smacked Paine on the arm and glared. "Why the hell did you have to bring up your friggin' sister?" She exclaimed angrily. "Now Fang's gonna be on the war path. Something will explode by the end of the day for sure!"

Paine pushed Rikku away from her and got up, brushing off her pants. "Those two need to get in a room and either make up, make out, or kill each other. I couldn't care which of the outcomes they reach as long as I don't have to deal with this bullshit stalemate anymore." She said with a shrug and left the office, Rikku trailing behind her waving her arms in argument.

Lightning watched them all leave before turning back to Lebreau. Lebreau gave the pinkette a quick once over before sighing.

"Paine's sister. She goes by the name Madame Lulu. She used to run the red light district with the old gang but… Bailed when the heat started turning up and everything fell to shit. She either had to save Fang and lose all her girls, or save her girls and lose Fang. She chose her business, and Fang wound up in prison." Lebreau leant against the desk and folded her arms as she explained.

Lightning winced. "They must have been close prior to that." Lebreau shrugged and tilted her head.

"Eh, they were. Whether they were intimate or not the jury's still out and the betting pool still strong. But Lulu was always close to her business. She took her main security guard and vanished. Rumour has it she's working under the Seraphim banner now, which will make it hard to meet. It's partly why Paine hasn't seen her since it all fell apart. Doubly so now that she's rolling with NORA."

Lebreau dipped her head and took her leave, with Lightning following out after a few moments. Paine and Rikku were still arguing about Lulu, and Fang was leaning on a railing above them, watching with a calculated expression. Lightning was drawn to her, and quietly went upstairs to be by her side.

"You want to talk about it?" Fang asked as she approached, making a hand gesture like she was smoking. Lightning stared at the ground and sat on the railing next to her.

"I… Not much to talk about really. You do dumb shit when you're impressionable and young. I have a few… Issues with it. It's only a mild drug, I get it.. But. You know. Gateway and all that."

Fang nodded, understanding in her gaze. "This business takes the best and the worst of us, and from us. But I won't allow anyone under my care to succumb to harmful addictions. Especially not you. I need you at your best."

Lightning gave the Pulsian a once over and bit her lip. Harmful addictions… Yeah right… She internally chastised herself and shook the thoughts off. "Fang, Lebreau filled me in on what happened between you and Lulu.. I'm sorry it ended the way it did. She says that the Madame has likely switched sides?"

"'Breau ain't wrong. Lulu is working with the Seraphim gang now, which will make it hard to get to her." Fang sighed, pressing her hands down on the stone railing.

"Do you want to meet her?" Lightning asked, wondering if it was better if they didn't. "We can always find another option for income."

Fang shook her head and turned so she could sit against the stone. "Do I want to? No. But something tells me she isn't working for the Seraphim by choice, and it would be too hard to go into competition with her, take too long to build everything up. She's in Seraphim's custody though, surrounded at all times. No idea how to get to her."

Lightning winced and sucked the air through her teeth. "I may have one..."

Fang walked into the club and inhaled the smell of smoke, beer and arousal. The aptly named Full Throttle was one of Lulu's more profitable establishments, and the girls were top notch. Tonight was one of the favourite nights for the locals, where the new girls were "broken in."

Lulu would be present, hand picking girls to give dances to the patrons. The idea was to get her alone at some point, to try to sort things out. Lightning had disappeared earlier in the evening to see what she could do to get close to Lulu and would call when she had her alone. That left the Pulsian to scout out the club as backup. Fang was disguised as best she could, leather jacket and hoodie underneath to hide her tattoos, and her hair was tied back in a messy bun hidden under a hat. She wore black rimmed glasses to obscure her face a little, debating that if it worked for super heroes in the comics, it would work for her too.

She took a seat by the bar, smiling as a minimally dressed woman brought her a drink. The more experienced dancers were on stage first and foremost, revving up the crowd.

Fang settled into her seat, surveying the club while trying to get her shoulder comfortable. She had been given the all clear and no longer had it in a sling, but she was still recovering. She noticed a few of the Seraphim gang members scattered in the crowd, and suppressed a growl. Committing their faces to memory, she vowed to sort them out later. The music dimmed, and the crowd started whistling and cheering. A tall woman walked onto the stage, wearing a long form fitted dress covered in straps and belts. Her long hair brushed over her ample cleavage, and she wore a bored expression on her face.

"We all know why you're here," The woman said in a breathy voice, "So let's not waste time. The rules. The new girls will not be touched, abused or otherwise harmed in any way. That goes for all of you." She said pointedly, staring at the Seraphim group near the stage.

"I am Madame Lulu, and welcome to opening night."

The crowd went up in a cheer, and a handful of girls sauntered out from the side of the stage. Lulu began to pick people out in the crowd for the girls to take away into booths and side of stage. She cast her red hued eyes over the audience, before they rested on Fang. The Pulsian held her breath as she felt herself studied, and then choked as the Madame pointed at a particular girl.

The figure approached the table with a shy expression and Fang gave her a once over, swallowing hard. Lulu always did like her straps and belts, and ensured the girls all wore something covered in them. It was sexy, as well as a safety thing for them. Harder to get their clothing off if the patrons were feeling less than cooperative.

This particular ensemble was a white and purple affair, which matched the amethyst on her necklace. The half skirt went as far as her ankles, but only on one side, Her other leg was completely visible, with a few ribbons and straps adorning the pale skin. The belts and strapping that criss-crossed up the torso gave a line for Fang's eyes to follow, up to the thick purple choker around her neck, until they rested staring at the very shy, very familiar cerulean gaze looking back at her.

A ruckus sounded from over by the stage, with Lulu arguing with one of the members of the Seraphim gang. "I made my choice, and I chose that patron for her. You've had far too much to drink and I am not letting you near any of the girls tonight." Lulu hissed in annoyance at the intoxicated brute.

The thug pulled his jacket back and revealed a weapon he'd somehow managed to smuggle into the establishment and Lulu's eyes widened. "I'm going to get that girl, whether you like it or not. Or do I have to make a little more noise in here?"

The Madame glanced back over at Fang and her eyes flashed with danger. "That patron is a female. Would you like me to see if she'll let you watch? Surely that'd be worth the price of admission, then I will arrange for the girl to spend the evening with you."

He seemed satisfied with that, and Lulu made her way over to the table. "Your first lesson for on the job training, is always adapting to working under pressure." She sighed as she approached the dancer. She turned to Fang and gave her a once over. "Ma'am, if you would indulge me- while I am more than happy to offer this girl her first dance with you, the gentleman over there is wanting to watch." She leant forward, practically filling Fang's vision with her breasts that threatened to spill out of her dress.

"If I were a smart woman, I would go along with it. At least until he's distracted or intoxicated enough for us to do something about it. He's armed, Fang." She added with a pointed glare. The Pulsian nodded with a small smile, knowing she'd been made the instant Lulu had cast her gaze upon her. Fang stood, allowing the dancer to take her into the booth with the Madame going to fetch the Seraphim associate.

"The Seraphim fucker has somehow snuck a gun into the club. This just got way more complicated than it needed to Light.. " Fang whispered. The dancer turned and rolled her eyes.

"When does it not?" Lightning sighed in response and adjusted some of the straps. They had hoped to get the Madame alone during this whole scheme, but an armed gangster insistent on being involved wasn't part of the plan. Fang's hands twitched as her eyes raked over Lightning's form once more. The pinkette glared and folded her arms.

"What? Sorry. When you said you were going to find a way to talk to her I didn't think you meant.."

"How else did you think I was going to get near her? She's guarded by Seraphim every hour of the day. We were just meant to loiter in here until she came looking for us...."

"You're just… You look… Just… Wow."

Lightning flushed and internally chastised the tiny thrill that shot through her at Fang's words. She opened her mouth to say something but the curtain pulled back and the thug staggered in, followed closely by Lulu.

"I apologise that you must be assessed with an audience… Lightning was it? But as a… Part owner in this club this gentleman is… insistent." Lulu said through gritted teeth. She walked over and grabbed Fang by the back of the shirt, and pulled her down onto the chair. She then pushed the Seraphim lieutenant into a corner couch and made him sit down.

The music started up and Lightning took a few breaths, eyeing the people in the room. Going to have to play along until that asshole gets distracted… Just tune them out, it's just you and Fang. She winced. She glanced over her shoulder at Fang and found the woman attempting to maintain composure but failing. Her eyes were hungry and desire obvious. Wait that doesn't help.

For someone that claimed she was patient, she looked the complete opposite as the brunette stared her down. "To hell with the damn line." Lightning muttered to herself. She was tired of fighting it. She was tired of the constant push and pull when she had a job to do. She refused to be judged.

Lightning began to move her hips to the rhythm of the music, and Fang leant forward in her chair. "Remember the rules patron, she can get as close as she likes, touch you if she feels comfortable, but if you touch her once, the dance is over and you're out on your ass." Lulu reminded them both.

Lightning absorbed that information, and Fang gulped, her eyes widening. The pinkette drew a hand down her skin, delighted that Fang's gaze followed, completely mesmerized. She moved with the music and slowly undid the skirt wrap, letting it fall to the floor. Lightning bent down to touch her ankles, dragging her nails up her legs slowly and arching her spine, eliciting a stifled groan from the Pulsian.

Her hands rounded her breasts, and back down her sides as she stepped carefully over to Fang, bending over and placing a hand either side of her neck on the back of the chair. She smiled as she watched Fang bite her lip and saw her chest moving rapidly. Lightning didn't think she'd be enjoying herself this much, but the knowledge that she was making Fang feel this way exhilarated her. She knelt down, straddling the Pulsian's hips and smirked as Fang's hands rose to touch her. They immediately fell back to grip the sides of the chair when Lulu cleared her throat behind them.

"This isn't fair.." Fang whispered, her voice strained. "Gods... What you do to me Light.. I know I said I'd be patient but Etro, you're making it hard." Lightning smiled and licked her lips, surprised at herself for being turned on by this whole affair. She looked over at the thug who wore a lecherous grin on his face that made her ill. He whooped and hollered, distracting them both. Fang growled over her shoulder in warning and he sneered in response.

Lightning drew her head back by the jaw and ran her hands through Fang's hair. "Ignore him. You're my only focus." She whispered as she raked the brunette's scalp gently with her nails.

Every time she drew a whimper from Fang's throat, her own breathing grew more heavy. The more her head swam, and the more unbearable the heat between her legs grew. Despite the alleged rules, Lightning was desperate for Fang to touch her.

"Light..." Fang groaned, voice tight with need as the pinkette continued to dance and grind in her lap. Her jaw alternated between hanging open and clenching tight as Lightning moved around seductively, and Fang was very aware of her breathing, practically panting at the sight before her.

Only for her... Lightning thought with a possessive glare back at the Seraphim member when he yelled out again. She crooked a finger at him, beckoning him over as she stretched her leg to get off of Fang. The Pulsian immediately felt the loss and opened her eyes. A fire of rage and jealousy lit her chest on fire when she saw Lightning walk around the gangster.

The thug's eyes lit up as she drew her hands over his pasty, alcohol-sweat ridden skin. He was practically salivating and Fang ground her teeth at the display. Lulu's eyebrow quirked, curious as to the pale-haired woman's intentions seeing that she wasn't finished her set with the other patron.

Lightning gave his body a once over, searching for his weapon before smiling at him with a flutter of her eyelashes. "I hope you remember that you're not allowed to touch me sir.." she purred and Fang bit back a growl that rumbled low in her throat. The man laughed and stumbled into her, grabbing the exposed waist roughly. Both Fang and Lulu stood, the tension in the room suddenly escalating.

"Girly, I get to say what I can and can't do around here." He slurred, breathing heavy onto her neck. Lightning leaned back and smiled dangerously.

"Oh, I was so hoping you would do that."

The man barely had time to register the shift in her expression from coy to ice cold. She drew her knee hard into his groin and he dropped to the floor, knee cap cracking on the ground. "That's a far better look for you." Lightning said with a deadly smile, spinning and kicking his head hard. He was thrown into the nearby wall from the force of the momentum and didn't get back up. Both Lulu and Fang stared hard at her as she casually walked back over and reattached the purple wrap to her belt.

"There. Now we can talk." She said simply, making her way to the couch and sitting down, crossing a leg over her knee.

Lulu's eyebrows were raised. "Well now aren't you a surprise. I wasn't expecting you at all. Fascinating partner you have here Fang." she calmly replied, eyeing off the pair. She adjusted her dress with a sigh. "So. It's been a while. You come to kill me to exact your revenge? You know I wouldn't fault you for that."

Fang folded her arms for a minute and looked at the ground. She sighed and ran her fingers through her hair, trying to shake the heat in her abdomen from Lightning's earlier distraction. "You were left with an impossible choice Lulu. It hurt like hell but I understand why you did it. Jail for me verses whatever fate awaited them..."

The Madame sighed and leant back in the chair. "What good it did meant nothing in the end, if only I had have known that then, I might have chosen differently." She replied sadly. Lightning observed the two with curiosity. They obviously had history together, but to what extent she couldn't say.

"The Seraphim gang seems to be quite comfortable here." The pinkette observed and Fang nodded in agreement. Lulu shifted around uncomfortably, feeling outnumbered with the Pulsian's new associate.

"They came in after everything collapsed, Titan vanished and you and Gadot were put away. I had no backup, and they threatened to murder every last girl here." Lulu worried her lip with her teeth as she explained the situation. Lightning frowned and leant forward, Fang's eyes darting down to her chest as she did so. A stark reminder that she was marginally less clothed than the others in the room.

"How many of them are your girls, and not ones brought in by the Seraphim? As in, how many are here because they want to be here, as opposed to being forced into it because of debts or servitude?" she asked bluntly, wanting to wrap this meeting up so she could go put something warmer on. Lulu thought about it, going through the extensive list in her head before pinching the bridge of her nose in frustration.

"These days less than half. The Fal'Cie ensure a constant rotation, bar a few regulars that make the business here a lot of money. It's so none get too attached to me in case I feel like starting a revolution." Lulu drawled sarcastically.

"What will it take to get you back with NORA?" Lightning probed further, while her inner GC officer was having a tantrum. She wasn't supposed to be helping expand the gang's influence, she was supposed to be bringing them down. She silenced her inner dialogue and kept a passive expression.

Lulu bit her lip and looked away, tears pricking at her eyes. "They have... Leverage."

"You mean Yuna, right?" Fang replied, confirming her suspicions when the Madame's eyes darted back, wide and fearful. "We raided a Seraphim compound recently, got intel from one of the victims we rescued. We know where she is and as soon as my shoulder is back in working order we're going to go get her."

Lulu's expression shifted, becoming hopeful. "I raised her along with Wakka after her parents died. It broke my heart when she and Rikku were taken. Get her out Fang, and I'm yours again." She said as she stood. Lightning narrowed her eyes at the wording and got up as well, walking over to Fang and holding onto her arm, almost in a possessive like fashion. The action wasn't missed by Lulu, who smiled knowingly. "Hang onto that one Fang. Someone that protective of you is a rarity in this world."

The two women watched the Madame leave, and her security guard came in briefly to drag the Seraphim brute out the back. "Fang, good to see you out and about ya?" he said with a salute as he left.

Fang exhaled and stared at the curtains for a moment before glancing down at the hand on her arm. "I really... Really don't get you sometimes you know?"

Lightning looked up at her quizzically, but then realised what she meant and dropped her hands.

"I mean you push me away one minute, then dance like… That? Don't think I didn't notice your arm around mine as soon as Lulu made that comment earlier."

Fang's jaw tightened as Lightning looked at the ground. "It's... Almost as if you forget yourself for a while, and just live in the moment. You feel, you breathe, you're alive. I get to see the real you, buried underneath all those hang ups and barriers. But then you remember whatever is in that head of yours... Like there's something you're meant to be doing... Some kind of ideal you're meant to be ascribing to… Or someone else you're meant to be. Then you shut yourself off."

The words rang truer than she intended as they settled in Lightning's mind. Without realising it Fang had managed to hit the nail on the head when it came to her dilemma with her undercover role. She'd remember herself and why she was there, and then push the brunette away. It was risking the entire operation to continue to hold back, but at the same time just as much risk to give into her conflicting, dangerous feelings.

Fang looked over the withdrawn form of the pinkette and felt her heart ache. "What is the worst thing that could happen if you just took a damn chance? What have you honestly got to lose?" The brunette sighed as she began to walk off.

"Everything." Lightning replied and pulled her back by the wrist, crashing their lips together.

Chapter Text

Once Fang had been given the clear for her shoulder, it was off to Ruffian in the north to track down this trader who had allegedly bought Yuna. Rikku and Paine were, of course, joining them. Lightning was driving the car while Gadot trailed on a motorcycle behind them. Every now and again she'd find herself looking at Fang and smiling.

Fang would catch the periodical gazes in her direction and hum to herself. She wasn't sure what had transpired in the last few weeks, but Lightning seemed to be a different person. Not as tense and wound up as she usually was. Whatever was holding her back before seemed to have been let go, and in its wake, there was this bright spark that Fang had discovered and treasured.

She found Lightning was more playful, joking around with the others and flirting endlessly with her whenever the opportunity presented itself. It made her happy. She reached over and caught Lightning's hand as she reached down to change the gears, bringing it back to her lips and kissing her knuckles gently. Fang enjoyed the blush that coloured the pale cheeks, and the pair ignored the groan from Paine in the backseat.

"We're not here for a romantic getaway you know.." The silver-haired woman muttered, staring back out the window. Fang scowled in the rear view mirror and Lightning took her hand back. The Pulsian's expression softened as she saw Rikku's set jaw.

"I know why we're here Paine, we'll find her. She's coming home Rikku."

They pulled into a gas station on the outskirts of the desert town, and Lightning got out to refill the tank. The others took an opportunity to stretch and go inside to grab drinks. Gadot pulled up alongside the car and took his helmet off once the motor was quiet.

"You've come a damn long way, Palazzo." He said gruffly, but with a subtle warmth tinging his voice. Lightning shrugged as she held the gas pump in the car. "I mean it Lightning. For a two-bit car thief, you've made a name for yourself. You're a part of our family. I'm real glad Fang ran into you in the Gallies."

"… Thanks, Gadot. I'm glad you've had her back for so long."

He nodded and leant against his bike, quiet and contemplative. "Hey, Gadot?" Lightning called out, getting his attention. "What do you think we're going to find in Ruffian?"

He huffed and folded his arms as he watched Fang inside, dragging the cashier over the counter and throwing him on the floor. "Dunno. I've heard it was a bit of a haven for the Children of Etro. They do trafficking deals with the Seraphim under the banner of the Fal'Cie. We will likely find Yuna's buyer packing serious security, money and artillery."

"So no guns blazing or it could get Yuna killed."

Gadot nodded, staring at Fang inside the store, watching silently when she kicked the cashier several times and reached for her gun threateningly. "I have an idea as to who could have purchased Rikku's cousin, Fang is just getting some information now."

"Hm?" Lightning turned, confused. She saw Fang get her gun from her belt, whipping the cashier with the handle across the face and sighed. "Oh for the love of..."

Fang looked up from inside the station and grinned at Lightning's exasperated expression. "She's so cute when she's mad.." she said to the cashier before belting him once more for good measure.

Rikku pinched a couple of drinks from the fridge and skipped outside, throwing one of them to the pinkette which she deftly caught with one lazy swipe of her hand. Paine and Fang followed out, and the brunette loped over to the car. She paused when she saw Lightning frowning at her. "What?"

"Was that really necessary?" Lightning asked with narrowed eyes. Fang shrugged and sauntered closer, trailing a finger down the pale neck and over the buttons of her shirt.

"Do I ever do anything unnecessarily?" She purred, hearing the pinkette's breath hitch in her throat. "I was casually asking around about the trafficking, and it turns out this place is owned and ran by the Children of Etro."

Lightning sighed with relief. "So he was a gang member then."

"Probably? Didn't have a chance to check his club card. Anyway the point is, we are hot on this bastard's trail and he'll be dead by sundown and Yuna will be home safe." Fang replied, pulling Lightning into a heated kiss to stifle any further argument from her. She leant back and watched with amusement when it took a few seconds before the pinkette's eyes fluttered back open.

"That's cheating." Lightning said with a pout, attempting to regain composure. Fang almost leant in to kiss the frown off her face.

"Today would be nice!" Rikku yelled as she leant out the window. Lightning blushed and gave a muted apology before getting into the driver's side quickly. Fang and Gadot shared a private knowing glance before he fist-bumped her and got on his bike. After being given the address, he adjusted his helmet and nodded towards the road.

They all drove on and found the compound they were looking for, courtesy of the very helpful cashier at the gas station. They ditched the cars down a back road and carefully moved through the brush on foot. Fang whistled low as the mansion came into view. "God damn." She said, observing the excessive opulence. Marble stone blanketed the property, with metal trimmings ornate in their decoration. There were guard towers, high fences and security everywhere.

"Did they hope to have Lulu never find out they just sold Yuna off?" Paine growled in anger as Rikku attempted to still her trembling hands.

Lightning took out a pair of binoculars and surveyed the compound with a low grumble in her throat. She could count at least a dozen girls milling about. Some accepting of their fate, smiling jovially and chattering to the staff; others tucked away in corners looking angry, fearful or despondent. One in particular caught her eye, sitting over by the pool. Her body language was guarded, yet defiant. The young woman looked up when a guard barked orders at her, and Lightning could just barely make out the difference in her irises.

"Rikku." The pinkette handed her the binoculars and pointed her line of sight to the pool. "Is that her?" she asked. The gasp was all she needed as confirmation and she turned to Fang. The Pulsian was watching the compound, drumming her fingers against her lips. She felt Lightning's eyes on her and smiled gently.

"So Light. You're the tactical marvel here. What are you thinking?"

The others fell silent and waited. Lightning stood, placing her hands on her hips and bit the inside of her cheek as she contemplated.

"Some of the girls appear to be indoctrinated. They'll work with the Children of Etro to ensure their... assets are protected in return for their favour or preferential treatment." She explained as the binoculars were passed around for the others to have a look. "Look for the angry ones. They're still aware enough to fight, and we will be able to win them over easier."

Fang's eyes widened at how easily Lightning slipped into analysing the situation. "Damn Sunshine, the GC sure as shit missed out when they booted you..."

Lightning ignored the comment and sucked the air through her teeth. "Hard and fast approach from the southern side. Cut the power, separate the indoctrinated slaves from the guards, get Yuna out as a priority first. Once she's in the clear, then we can look at getting out whoever else we can. Fang, you and Gadot scope out an escape route. With your shoulder still not back to fighting form you need to avoid direct conflict." She swallowed hard as she looked back at Fang. She was hesitant to leave the Pulsian to the mission.

The silver-haired woman exhaled and took Rikku by the head, kissing her on the temple. "I've seen you in action. We need to stealth it and take our best shot. I'll go with Gadot and Fang. Keep my woman safe Lightning, or it's your head on a pike."

Gadot began to move through the bush to the southern side of the compound, but Fang lagged behind. "Go on," Lightning urged gently, "I'll be fine. We'll get this done." Fang pulled her forward, causing the pinkette to stumble into her. She kissed her passionately, holding onto the collar of the pale woman's shirt.

"Be safe and get out in one piece Light, I plan to continue that later." Fang purred, breathing heavy. She disappeared into the brush before she was tempted to continue. Paine retreated with the other two, which left Rikku and Lightning to head to the generators. The two women crept silently through fading light, waiting for the opportune moment to strike.

Once nightfall had hit the valley, it was time to move.

"Rikku." Lightning probed gently, placing a hand softly on her shoulder. "I know that this is a huge deal for you, and I am going to do whatever I can to get your cousin out of here. But I need you to trust me, and when I give an order, you follow it. Otherwise, none of us are getting out alive ok? No rash decisions, no letting emotions get the best of you. If you see her, don't rush to her. You need to remain focused on completing the task."

The blonde nodded with a hard gulp. "Focus first, freak out later when she's in the car and we're away from here. Got it." Rikku fished around in her pocket until she found a small explosive device, throwing it over the fence and watching as it landed between the generators. "Hope this works.." she muttered and the two primed themselves for action. The small device gave a loud pop, and the generators started to fizz and spark before finally plunging the compound into darkness.

Chaos unfolded amongst the scattering of guards attempting to get the power back on, but with Rikku having just fried the generator network they weren't going to have any luck any time soon. The blonde brandished a pair of daggers embedded in a bladed ring that completely encompassed the handle. She looked towards Lightning for guidance, who pulled out her Blazefire and hooked it into its blade form. Motioning for them to move into the compound, Lightning was careful to watch for the guards along the watch tower. She pointed one out on the far side of the courtyard, and Rikku nodded. The small blonde crept through the bushes to get within range, and then took a compact throwing knife from her belt.

She whisked it straight up at the watch tower, hitting the Seraphim guard clear in the chest. With barely a sound he toppled over the railing, and Rikku smiled. "It's all in the wrist!" she giggled.

"That's my bloody line!" Fang's voice hissed in their ears.

"Nuh, I said it first!"

"Focus, please!" Lightning snapped, silencing them both. Rikku looked abashed and retrieved her weapon after the Seraphim had hit the ground with a hard thud.

"Waste not.." She said with a mischievous grin. Lightning was impressed at her accuracy and they moved further in, taking out a handful of guards as they continued. "What's your status Boss? Tank?" Rikku called into her headset.

"There are so many fucking guards here it isn't funny." The hissed response came back through their comms devices. Fang was clearly not impressed with the silent route. "They're going to discover the bodies soon enough, lights or not."

"If we get to Yuna before that and get her out, feel free to go nuts." Lightning replied curtly, tapping the blonde on the shoulder and pointing to a trellis that lead up to a second-floor balcony. They climbed it quickly and pried open a window to enter the mansion. They crept through the hallways, checking on a few doors to bedrooms. Rounding a corner, Rikku tripped over a foot and went crashing to the ground.

"Ohmigosh I am so sorry are you ok?" A fearful voice cried out as the woman helped Rikku up. "Wait a minute.. I can barely see here but youuuuu don't feel like one of the usual guards."

"Uh... Electricians?" Rikku offered with a shrug, as Lightning glared at the back of her head. The woman nodded thoughtfully.

"Please tell me the rumours are true. That you're from a rival gang and you're looking to take the Children of Etro and Seraphim out."

Fuck it. Lightning thought with a roll of her eyes. If she was one of the brainwashed ones, she'd be able to incapacitate her. If not, she would be of help. "Yes. They made the mistake of getting on our radar when they took one of ours. We're looking for Yuna. Brunette, has heterochromia." The two blank stares she received back made her grind her teeth. "One blue eye, one green eye."

"Oh! Yuna! Yes, she was brought here about a week ago. Her bedroom is with me down the hall..." she beckoned them to follow her before slowing up. "Wait.. Are you just here for her? Cos I can help you know. I'm good at organizing things."

Lightning and Rikku shared a glance. "Can you tell us who wants out and who has turned? We don't want to risk the whole plan by running into a girl that wants to help the Seraphim."

The woman sighed. "That'd be most of them, to be honest. They... Break them quickly here. Out of the dozen here, there's maybe... A handful of us tops? Come on, they'll be doing a sweep up here shortly, let's get you to Yuna before they arrive."

They walked along the hallway, weapons still drawn when Fang's voice came whispering down the headsets. "Hey, we've found a garage down here. Paine went to grab our car just in case but... Lots of nice wheels, some I'm pretty sure are on our list Sunshine."

"Good," the pinkette replied, "we're going to need them. Make sure they're all fuelled and ready to go. We'll make our way to you shortly."

Lightning and Rikku were lead to a bedroom door that she quietly opened.

"That you Selphie?" A quiet voice called out.

"Sure thing Riri. Hey is Yuna in here? I need to find her and get the others. We've got our ticket out of here."

There was a dim light in the room from a nearby torch, and they saw a girl get up on shaky legs. "Yes, I'm here." Yuna replied with a bowed head. Rikku looked at Lightning with wide eyes, remembering her promise to the pink-haired woman.

"Go on. We have a minute." Lightning said with a smile. Rikku beamed with tears in her eyes and raced forward, knocking her cousin onto the bed in a crushing hug.


"Wha... Rikku? Rikku!" The two girls cried as they held onto each other for dear life, and Lightning smiled. To hell with the line, we did something good today. Something that Psicom would have damn well ignored.

"Fang? We've got her. And Selphie, the one helping us has about four or so girls that are ready to get out of here too."

Fang swore down the earpiece and Lightning heard her breathing pick up. "Time's up sunshine, I think they just found one of the bodies judging by the yelling down this way. We gotta book." Lightning spared a glance at Rikku. The blonde looked up and nodded.

"Yunie, stay close. We're going home."

Lightning took point and left the bedroom with about four girls in tow beyond Rikku and Yuna. "Selphie, right? If there's anyone else you can think of in a hurry that would be willing to come with, tell me now because we may not get another chance." She said while she pulled her weapon from its sheath.

The short brunette looked around at the group and shook her head. "Mostly we band together where we can when they're not trying to separate us. Those that are in it for the long haul here tend to keep their distance because of how negative we are." She sighed sadly. Rikku was about to say something crass but was silenced by Lightning holding up her hand against her arm. The pinkette could hear muffled voices from around the corner and the distinct cocking of a gun.

"I don't care about the risks! Those vermin from that NORA gang are done, you hear me? Done!"

Lightning frowned at the familiarity of the voice and pressed herself into the shadows. She could see the outlines of a tall man storming down the hallway. "I'll hunt them down personally myself. They think they can take my girls, my property, I'll string them from my front gate!" He yelled into what Lightning assumed was a phone, a faint glow giving away his position in the hall.

She narrowed her eyes and held her blade at the ready. "Not today you won't." Lightning hissed and drew her sword hard and fast in front of her. The man yelled in pain and fell back, clutching at his face. "Come on!" She yelled to the others and they all took off down the hallway. "Selphie, can you lead us to the garage? Fang has some vehicles there we can use to escape."

The brunette skipped ahead and pulled out a small torch. She turned it on and held her hand over it, so only the faintest red glow could be seen, the light illuminating her skin. Selphie used it as a guide for them to not draw any further attention as the group moved quickly through the corridor. "Down here!" she whispered near a stairwell that did have some modicum of emergency lighting.

They burst into the garage and Fang nearly had a heart attack, drawing her gun in the direction of the sound. "Etro's sake… A little warning next time?" She growled. Gadot raced to the sliding door and hit a button to roll the door up.

"Ladies." Fang purred, dipping her head in greeting to the women with her companions. Her eyes finally settled on Rikku's cousin, who was staying close under the blonde's protective arm. "Yuna. It's good to finally meet you after all this time. Let's get you home." She added quietly, feeling the shy dual-coloured eyes resting on her a moment.

A yell rang out from the doorway as a handful of Seraphim came into view, armed to the teeth. Lightning immediately grabbed Rikku and Yuna and pulled them into cover as they opened fire. The other girls scattered behind cars and Fang didn't waste time jumping into the fray, unloading her own gun into the crew.

Gadot was busy getting the cars started, and yelled at the other girls to get in. The handful of rescued captives made a break for it, sliding into the backseat and grabbing the rifles he had pilfered. They didn't hesitate to join in the fracas, firing wildly around the Seraphim and sending them diving for cover.

"Go!" Fang yelled at her friend, and he nodded and tore from the garage. Screeching tyres rattled their ears, and as Gadot left the compound, Paine came roaring in with their other vehicle. She slid the car into a hard brake turn, smashing into one of the gang members with the back of the car. She leapt from the driver's side as it came to a stop, and fired her own weapon, taking out two Seraphim swiftly and aggressively.

"Driver's side is all yours Lightning!" The silver-haired woman yelled as they all ran towards the car. Lightning leapt into the driver's seat and gripped the steering wheel, waiting for the others to get in. Fang slid in beside her and the trio clambered into the back seat, Yuna squished firmly in the middle. They sped from the garage, bullets raining down on the vehicle and shattering the windows. The women kept their heads down until they were in the clear.

Finally relaxing when they were certain they weren't being pursued, Lightning slowed down to a more leisurely pace and looked in the rear-view mirror. Paine and Rikku were wrapped around Yuna, holding her tight as she quietly cried. It tore at her heart to see their little family reunited again, and it sent a pang of sadness through her chest when she thought of Serah.

Fang seemed to sense the shift in her mood and took her hand. "You'll patch things up with your sister Light. We did good today after all." Her words were met with a brilliant smile. Lightning continued to drive back to the Warrens in silence, feeling lighter than she had in months.

Arriving back at the HQ, Gadot was already waiting for them. He waved them over in the parking bay and gave Rikku a hug as she climbed out of the car. "You Valkyries did some serious damage against the Seraphim tonight. The girls we got out know the others that are already here from the shipping yard bust out."

Fang rubbed her shoulder as she was reminded of that night, and nodded. "They've been given the business? Shower, meal, bed and the exit if they choose?" She asked, leaning against the bonnet of the car. Gadot nodded and pointed towards the stairs as they all headed out of the garage to the main lobby.

"Sure thing boss, but with our setup these days, who'd want to leave?" The girls were scattered all over, hanging out on lounges talking with other prospects, reuniting with the other rescued victims from the shipping yard, some even spinning off the poles. Music was playing and alcohol was flowing freely, everyone in celebration mode. Yuna was dragged over to meet Hope by an excited Rikku, with Paine following along with a content smile, a rarity for the silver-haired woman.

As usual, Fang bowed out of proceedings, grabbing a beer and heading up the stairs. Lightning took a beverage herself and followed. She smiled at the Pulsian and clinked their bottles together.

"We did good today Sunshine. Not often in our business that we get to feel like heroes for a change." Fang said wearily, gently swinging a beer bottle in circles as she hung off the balcony. Watching the revelry below as friends were reunited from two hits to the Seraphim trafficking operation, Lightning smiled and took a long drink from her own bottle.

"We did. Between this, fixing up the Warrens, helping the Estheims... You're making it hard for me to see you as a criminal Yun..." Lightning teased, soliciting a scowl from the brunette.

"Oh up yours, woman. I think I might have to go.. Rob a hospital or... Kick a puppy or something if my reputation is at stake."

"You're not kicking a puppy Fang. But I can think of other things you can do to restore that precious ego of yours..."

"Oh? And what's tha-eep!"

Lightning pressed into the brunette and kissed her deeply, catching Fang off guard as she bit her lower lip. Feeling her smile into the kiss, Lightning sighed contentedly and let a tiny moan escape her throat.

She didn't have to think around Fang. She could just exist, and be, and live. She could forget about the job she was there for, that ate at her insides whenever she was alone. She could pretend that she was nothing more than a car thief that had caught the Pulsian's eye, and become so enmeshed into NORA that she would take a bullet for any one of them.

Lightning heard a groan as Fang picked her up and pushed her against a wall in the nearby stairwell. Wrapping her legs around the brunette's waist, she threaded her fingers through Fang's hair and shivered at the slender fingers making their way under her shirt. She could pretend that this was real, that she had feelings for Fang, that they were together and going to take down every gang and corrupt source in the city until only they were left standing.

As Fang bit into her throat with a growl, Lightning gasped and bucked her hips against the Pulsian.

She was just pretending… Right?

Chapter Text

Lightning headed out of the café to where her car was waiting, coffee in hand. Her phone buzzed in her pocket and she answered it with a smile. "Hi Fang, what's up?"

"Where you at Sunshine?"

"Just heading back from downtown Eden. Had some energy to burn and you were still asleep." The pinkette replied while reversing from the car park. She heard a low chuckle down the phone.

"What, you're saying I didn't tire you out enough last night?"

Lightning blushed and bit her lip while salacious images of their night together flashed through her mind. "Hush. Is there a reason you called other than to distract me?"

"Yeah, Paine found a farm ran by the Behemoth Kings, figured you'd be up for a late afternoon roast while we burn their echo grass supply to the ground. You in?"

Lightning roared down the highway and took the exit to the Warrens. "I'll be back at the HQ in twenty."

True enough, she made it through the tunnels to the garage with a few minutes to spare. Entering the main hall while twirling the keys in her hand, she came upon Fang in deep conversation with an unknown tall man. The Pulsian's expression was solemn, and she was nodding along to whatever he was saying. Her deep green eyes glanced towards Lightning as she approached, and the pinkette saw the relief colour her irises.

"Hey Light. Someone I want you to meet. This is Sazh. Sazh, Lightning." Fang gave out the introductions as she pulled out a trademark grin. Lightning couldn't help but be drawn to it, leaning in to kiss the Pulsian gently. She held out her hand towards the gentleman in greeting.

"I've heard many things about you. Nice to finally meet you soldier girl." Sazh said with a smile as he clasped her hand and shook it. "All good things of course. I wanted to personally thank you for helping Fang with all of the work against the Seraphim's slave trading."

The grip on his hand loosened as the awareness crept in. "... You're Titan." She said succinctly, bewildered at the man before her. Lightning had imagined a lot of things when it came to what the former leader of NORA looked like, but this wasn't one of them. "What brings you to our neighbourhood?" she asked casually, sizing him up and committing every detail to memory.

"Heard on authority that you're about to have a big ol' mess on your hands with the commissioner. Figured it was worth coming down and giving you a heads up." Sazh replied as they all walked over to a nearby television.

"He's not wrong boss," Gadot called out as he turned and nodded to Fang. "Police Comish is about to make a statement to the press on the TV. He wants to declare martial law in the Warrens, specifically to end the gang violence." He drawled, crooking his fingers in the air. Fang growled and hovered close, wrapping an arm around Lightning's waist.

"Bastard means us." The brunette spat angrily, and Lightning turned to kiss her gently behind the ear.

"They can certainly try," she replied, staring at the screen as the Commissioner approached the podium to make his announcement. "We won't let them take any of our… Ground…. What. The. Hell." she trailed off as the camera zoomed on his face, a very noticeable gash cutting an aggressive line across his cheek.

Fang whistled and jerked a thumb at the screen. "Hey, look at this guy. Bet he got on the business end of something fun... Sunshine?" she watched the colour drain from the already pale face. "You look like you've seen a ghost."

"Fang... I did that to him. At the compound."

The brunette looked at her, disbelieving. She called out to the trio sitting at a table nearby. "Yuna, you recognise the clown on the tv?" The expression on the young girl's face needed no further explanation. "Well, shit Light. What do we do?"

Lightning swallowed hard and stared at the screen. "Fang I need to make a phone call." She disappeared quickly from the room, the Pulsian hot on her heels.

"Hey! Wait up! What are you planning?" Fang grabbed at Lightning's wrist, pulling her back. "Remember what I said Light, keep me in the loop yeah? Don't go off on your own, your family is here to help." She tilted the pinkette's chin up to meet her eyes and kissed gently along the pale jaw line.

Momentarily distracted, Lightning lowered her phone. "Fang..." she whispered, leaning into the affection.

"Don't shut me out Light..." came the purring response. Lightning sucked in a sharp breath and exhaled forcefully.

"If we do anything to him it will only justify the call for martial law. For once we need to do this by the book. I... Know you won't approve but..." she was silenced by a finger pressed against her lips.

"It's ok, I know Sunshine. But let's go one better than your nob of a contact in the archives yeah?" Fang said while moving around to kiss Lightning on the ear. Pulling out her phone, she dialled while keeping the pink-haired woman close against her and waited.

"You got some timing you know..." the voice muttered down the phone when it connected.

"Sorry 'Nille I know it's a bad time but it's important. See that nasty looking mug on TV at the moment?"

There was a noticeable pause before Vanille responded. "Yes bahan I'm fully aware of who the police commissioner is, and that he is mobilising a taskforce against you. The exact thing I was warning about when you escaped the Gallies!"

Fang put her on speaker so that Lightning could hear and gave the pinkette a little wink. "I was more referring to that nice slice and dice job on his face, courtesy of my favourite pink-haired saviour..."

The phone was muffled at the other end suddenly, but the two women could just barely make out Vanille's cursing. Lightning took the cell and turned the speaker off, putting the phone to her ear. "Before you say anything, I injured him in the process of getting Rikku's cousin Yuna Braska out of a Seraphim compound. I heard Commissioner Yaag Rosch call the girls his property, and that he would seek vengeance against NORA by any means necessary."

There was more muffled swearing and what sounded like Vanille dropping the phone. "You're becoming as much a pain in my butt as my sister, Lightning. Let me see what I can do." She said through gritted teeth and hung up.

Fang pocketed the phone and tilted Lightning's jaw up, kissing along her neck. "See," she murmured against the pale skin, "Wasn't that much better than running off and doing things alone? Now we have more time to do other important things."

"Like what?" Lightning asked, shivering under the attentions.

"Well, you for one."

The pinkette felt her smile against her throat. Fang moved her hands around to brush the jacket from Lightning's shoulders and pushed her gently until she bumped into the wall.

"Uh, Boss? You might want to come look at this!" Gadot's voice shouted from the lobby.

"Typical fuckin' interruptions..." Fang growled and leant back with a sigh. She paused when she saw a commotion on the screen. Lightning pressed closer to the Pulsian, not just to inhale her scent and stay warm but also to get a better view of the TV. Her breath caught in her throat when she saw Director Raines and Amodar attempting to subdue the Commissioner, live in front of a scrum of reporters.

"Commissioner Rosch, you're under arrest for multiple counts of kidnapping, human trafficking, conspiracy and who knows what else once we raid your compound in the north."

They all watched in silence as the scuffle escalated, gun shots ringing out on the television. The camera went back to the studio to a shocked reporter, scrambling to fill the silence. "Huh." Fang murmured, resting her chin on Lightning's head. "At least that's one less Fal'Cie backed cop we have to deal with right?"

The Pulsian led her companion back into the main room with an arm around her shoulder. The action unfolding on the television before them was too good to miss.

"Boss, he's going on a mad chase down the highway- looks like there's a few Behemoth Kings with him too." Gadot said, lazing about on the couch nearby. Paine joined them, sipping a beer thoughtfully. The bottle slowly dropped from her mouth and she narrowed her eyes.

"Uh… Fang… That's a very specific off-ramp Yaag just took." She said, voice laced with concern. Lightning watched the screen intensely, before looking at Fang with a solemn gaze.

"Fuck. There goes my night. He's headed here isn't he?" Fang complained, leaping over the back of the couch and racing towards the armoury. The others followed, the HQ exploding into a hive of activity. Prospects were running about, while Fang started rolling out orders.

"Ok you lot, get the civilians to safety, make sure they're indoors and away from the windows. Sazh, lead the prospects, make sure they're thorough- I don't want civilians caught in the crossfire of whatever is about to go down. You, you and you, go secure the caverns, I don't want any surprises floating down from the waterways. Paine, Rikku, stay with Yuna and the others. Arm those that want to pitch in. I want at least a dozen of you down here protecting the girls. Like hell am I letting that prick get anywhere near them after everything they've been through." Fang barked, clearly in no mood to mess around. She took a breath as she loaded up two of her favourite pistols. "Lightning, Gadot. You're with me." She said sternly, and the three of them made for the surface.

Hope was downstairs in the communications room with his father, monitoring CCTV footage and giving out intel where he could. "Fang, they're about ten minutes out from the Warrens, coming through from the east side." His voice crackled through their earpieces.

Lightning's phone rang off her belt, and she quickly grabbed it as they ran through the streets. "Now is really not a good time!" She yelled into it, not interested in the usual chatter from who she knew was on the other end.

"No shit girly, but you're about to have a whole mess of trouble on your hands!"

"I noticed Rygdea, what the hell does he think he's doing?" She asked, lowering her voice while watching Fang push out more orders down her comms unit.

"I think it's an all or nothing kind of affair here Lightnin'. He's out for blood after what you lot did. His phone traffic and emails lit up in the days that followed your compound raid, and one of the kids in the cybercrimes division managed to pull enough evidence for us to arrest him."

Lightning's stomach flipped at his words, she doubted that Vanille had "stumbled" upon that information, and likely manufactured it to cover herself from her own links to the gang. "Rygdea, I gotta go. Need to make sure this place is secure and the people of the Warrens are safe. Send help wherever you can."

She hung up when she felt Fang's pointed glare. "Come on Light, I need you to focus here."

"Sorry, that was just my GC contact thinking I don't watch the news. Wanted to give me a head's up that Yaag's on his way."

The sound of speeding motors began to get closer, and Gadot took the safety off his rifle. "Let's show these Fal'Cie fucks why the Warrens are ours, hey boss?"

Fang simply nodded and otherwise kept silent, all her usual casual nature vanished in the wake of the seriousness of the situation. A part of Lightning was relieved at her demeanour, it meant she was determined to protect the Warrens, her people, and each other. The rest was mildly terrified she was about to witness the full fury of the Yun Fang she wrote about in her countless applications to Psicom.

The first of the cars rounded the corner, tyres screeching on the asphalt. "Behemoths!" Gadot roared and opened fire, blowing out a wheel and sending it careening into a building. Fang burst from cover and put a few wide shots each side of the other vehicles to funnel them into Lightning's scope.

The pinkette fired, smashing the windscreen and putting a bullet straight into the driver's head. He slumped forward over the steering wheel and the car sped up, the trio diving to get out of the way. The vehicle hit a pot hole and flipped, sliding across the street on its roof.

"Skirmishes breaking out across the Warrens in all locations!" Hope's voice warned down their communicators. Gunfire pierced the air around them, and they all dove into an alley for cover.

A sniper rifle cracked through the armour the Behemoth lackey wore, dropping him with a heavy thud. Noel waved from a vantage point on a nearby building. "Sorry I'm late, Paine called me down here when she realised the Behemoth Kings are all converging on your location." His welcomed voice determined in their ears.

"Shadow Hunter, nice of you to pop in for the party!" Gadot cheered, pressing his rifle against his shoulder and firing into the approaching cars. Lightning's eyes widened and she whirled around to Fang.

"Are you fucking kidding me? Noel Kriess is the Shadow Hunter? How the hell did they let him out of prison?" She hissed, recalling the rap sheet on the notorious hitman. Fang shrugged and drew her pistol, firing into the street alongside her friend.

"Simple Sunshine, they don't know. He has a couple of associates that do his work for him when he's out for the count under his tags so people can't make the link." Fang replied, and pressed the button on the earpiece. "Hey Noel, we're kind of pinned here. Can you be an absolute sweetheart and clear us a path?"

In quick succession more gang members dropped, giving the trio time to get out of the alley. As they moved out, another vehicle tearing around the corner separated them, with Fang moving to one side of the street and Lightning with Gadot on the other. The Pulsian felt her heartrate pick up as she was knocked back from them, and she scrambled to try to rejoin them.

Yaag leant out of the window of the vehicle barrelling towards them, armed with a rocket launcher. He aimed it straight at Gadot and Lightning, firing without any hesitation.

"NO!" Fang screamed, her hand reached out towards them in futility. Gadot grabbed Lightning around the waist and yanked her away, both of them rolling into an alleyway as the rocket crashed into the building. Concrete and bricks flung outward as the explosion roared through the Warrens, tearing Fang off her feet and slamming her into the ground a few metres away from where she had stood. Her nails dug into the dirt as she clawed her way to her feet, staring in shock at the devastation.

A red haze overwhelmed her vision and she let out a savage scream, that made the Behemoth Kings scattered in the street step back a couple of paces. Fang's mind was blank as she tore through the opposing crew, unleashing her fury on them with swift brutality. She fired her weapon into anything that moved, and even pulled out her lance and started mowing through the Behemoths, eviscerating them where they stood. There was no mercy, just rage.

The only sound she heard was her own roaring, shredding her throat with its intensity. It couldn't end like this. One efficient explosion and, they were gone.


She swore she heard her name. She put another bullet into the head of a retreating lackey and then turned to the direction of the sound.


That voice, it was familiar. It was…


The pinkette emerged from the smoke, coughing roughly and being helped along by Gadot. Fang's vision cleared and she let out a relieved cry, racing towards them. She took Lightning in her arms and kissed her deeply, wrapping her arms around her in a total embrace.

"Are you ok?" Fang asked, moving back to check on her companion for injuries. Lightning nodded, her hair matted with blood and concrete dust. "Gadot, you ok brother?"

Her friend dusted himself off and shrugged. "I'll live. I'll pass on the kiss though Fang." He said with a chuckle. They all smiled and Fang held onto Lightning to support her weight. She fussed over the pinkette until the woman started scowling at her.

"Sorry sorry… I just… I was so… I couldn't… Light…" Fang stammered, words escaping her amid her overwhelming emotions. She opted to just rest her head against Lightning's, exhaling with relief.

"NORA scum!" Yaag's voice rang out through the street, and he emerged from the smoke with an assault rifle in hand. Gadot didn't even have time to think about it, just react. He pushed both Fang and Lightning out of the way as the Commissioner opened fire, bullets slamming into his stomach and chest. Time seemed to slow as he fell backwards, crashing into the ground.

"No! No no no no this can't… Gadot!" Fang yelled, crawling over to him as Lightning emptied a clip in Yaag's direction, sending him retreating into the alleyways.

"Noel, you still in the vicinity? We need cover, Gadot's been shot!" Lightning shouted into her earpiece, sniper rifle fire from the rooftops keeping the Behemoth Kings at bay a fitting response.

"He's not breathing. He's not breathing!" Fang cried, clutching at her friend's face. Lightning pushed her out of the way and immediately began performing CPR. She counted in her head as Fang scrambled back to her feet, watching with tear filled eyes. The Pulsian's own breathing was erratic, barely holding it together as she watched her partner working frantically to save his life.

Suddenly his chest heaved, and Fang let out a sob. "I've got a pulse. Fang help me get him in the car. We have to get him to the hospital now." Lightning snapped, getting Fang into action. They carefully moved him into the backseat of a nearby Behemoth car and Lightning held the door open. "Get in the back with him. Keep him stable and let me know if anything changes."

Fang nodded with a hard swallow. Tears fell down her face as she pulled Gadot against her, and Lightning quickly got in the driver's seat after removing the dead gang member and sped off. She tried to drive as carefully as she could, given the unstable passenger behind her. She tore through the streets, constantly checking in her rear view mirror for both pursuers and the state of her friend, bleeding out in the back seat. Fang was whispering to him constantly, her voice ragged with emotion, desperately trying to reassure him that he was going to be ok.

Lightning drove into the emergency department driveway that was usually reserved for the ambulances, sending paramedics and nurses by the entrance scattering everywhere.

"A little help here please!" she yelled, leaping out of the car and running around to the back to get Gadot out of the vehicle. The ER staff launched into action, some even recognizing the trio for who they were and giving silent nods as they carted him away to an operating theatre.

Fang stood at the entrance, shaking and shirt soaked in her friend's blood. Lightning tentatively took her by the hand and drew her into a tight hug. "I'm so sorry Fang.. I should have been faster... I should have..."

The Pulsian shook her head and threw her arms around Lightning's neck, breath shuddering and biting back sobs. "No.. If you were faster you'd have gotten hit too. Then I'd have lost two people I care about. I can't... I can't..."

Lightning took her by the jaw, holding her head up to make eye contact. "He's a tank Fang, Gadot will pull through. If he survived three years in Max surrounded by your enemies, he'll shrug off a couple of bullets to the chest." She said firmly, tears pricking at her own eyes.

Fang took a couple of deep heaving breaths and crouched on the ground, hugging her knees. "I need... I need to..." She kept faltering in her words, trying to calm her panic. She needed to tell Lebreau. She needed to get a status update on the HQ, make sure the girls were ok, make sure the others were safe.

"Fang, tell me what you need. Anything you want." Lightning urged gently. The jade eyes suddenly went quiet and she stood, demeanour shifting rapidly.

"I want that son of a bitch to bleed by my hands." She said coldly. Lightning nodded and got in the car, looking at the road ahead.

"Let's go get him then."

They drove back in the direction of the earlier chaos. Fang faced the front, jaw set and silent. Lightning took it upon herself to make the necessary calls.

"What's the sit at your end?" She asked as Paine picked up.

"Normal, mostly. Nobody got close to even make a dent here thanks to you guys so some of the girls have taken it upon themselves to go hunting. What about you?"

Lightning looked over at Fang before continuing. "I... Gadot's been shot. He's in emergency surgery at Eden Memorial. I need a round the clock contingent guarding that hospital, and his room."

"Shit.. Is he going to be..."

"I don't know," The pinkette replied, voice wavering a little when she thought about the potential outcome. "But what I do know is that Rosch is going to pay for this. I need you on comms looking for him. I won't have Hope complicit in what's coming for that bastard."

"You got it.. Is... Fang ok?"

Lightning remained silent. Her lack of response was answer enough.

"Right. I'll let you know when I find him. Light, be careful. Don't let her lose two of her family in one night."

A bloodied hand reached for Lightning, and she took it without hesitation. "We'll find him Fang. Gadot will pull through. And then we're going after the Fal'Cie to take them out of the game. Permanently." She said, pulling up to a set of traffic lights.

Fang took the opportunity while they were stationary to pull Lightning into a kiss, desperately seeking her connection. She still wasn't certain that Gadot was going to make it, but there was also a close call for Lightning as well. "Gods… I thought I'd lost you too.." She whispered, the Pulsian finally let her feelings catch up with her about the explosion she'd witnessed in the alley.

"It'll be ok Fang. I promise. I'm not going anywhere." Lightning said, touching the tanned face pressed against her until the lights went green. The pinkette's phone rang and she answered it quickly.

"Southside. Fucker is on foot." Paine growled down the phone. "Looks like he's sticking to the alleys, making his way down to the docks."

Lightning hung up and hit the accelerator, Fang's expression hardening once more. Approaching their destination, the brunette sat up in her seat and pointed. "There! He's there!"

There was no hesitation. Pushing the accelerator to the floor, Lightning sped after him, slowing down at the last possible moment so that the impact wouldn't kill him. She rammed into him at a considerable speed regardless, sending him flying. His body crunched into the asphalt, scraping along the ground. Fang got out of the car and raced over to him, dragging him to the car and stuffing him in the boot. Her head nodded towards the distance.

"Further in. To the docks."

They pulled up near a pier and Fang looked down at her hands. "Light I… Need to make a phone call. Can you see to it that he's… Ready?" She leapt out of the car and put the device to her ear, walking away to the edge of the nearby pier.

Lightning took the opportunity to pop the boot, dragging him out and throwing him to the ground. He coughed and hacked, bones obviously broken in many places. "You… I know you…" He said weakly, blood dripping from his mouth, "You're the plant. Lieutenant Farron. Arrest me. I'll go quietly." The pinkette's eyes narrowed, and she pushed him up against the car. Yaag's eyes widened and he recognised the look in her gaze. His head dropped and he laughed quietly. "How far we have fallen Farron. In the end, we're both the same."

"We are nothing alike." Lightning snapped, seething at the accusation. He smiled up at her, his eye swelling over.

"Of course we are. We both wound up in over our heads until we grew to enjoy our benefits too much. No oversight, no rules, just freedom and endless power. The only difference between you and me is that you're not corrupted by the Fal'Cie. You're corrupted by something far worse."

Lightning looked away, grinding her teeth with rage. Fang was still on the phone, talking quietly.

"Eden was in disrepair. With the Fal'Cie we were able to keep the gang activity… Contained. A few arrests here and there to keep the media happy, but they'd all be back on the streets soon enough. It was peaceful, regardless. Until Yun Fang broke out of prison and set about destroying that peace. She's disrupting the balance, Lieutenant. They call her a world ender behind closed doors." Yaag said, interrupting himself with another pained coughing fit and sighed. "End this. Get me out of here and I will ensure you're rewarded and kept safe. You and your sister."

Fang hung up the phone and walked back over. "Just checking in with my sister. Making sure all her paperwork is in order before we continue."

Yaag's eyes narrowed and his gaze darted between the two women. "Take the offer, L-" his plea cut off by Fang backhanding him across the face.

"He been trying to cut a deal has he Sunshine?" she asked, her voice gravelly and dangerous. Lightning shrugged and folded her arms.

"Trying being the operative word."

He bared his teeth at her in anger. "We can make an arrangement Yun Fang. What do you want? Money? Territory? Information? What about your precious companion? Do you trust her?" he whimpered, and Fang kicked him in the stomach. He doubled over in pain and she grabbed him by the hair to pull him back up.

"With. My. Life." Fang growled, laying into him a few more times.

"Yun Fang… Please…" He groaned, trying to crawl away feebly.

Lightning shook her head at the pitiful sight before her, her lips quirking up towards Fang. "Typical Cocoonian. Can't even get the naming convention right." She said, remembering one of their first conversations together. Fang huffed, and whipped him in the face.

Yaag spat at her, blood hitting her boots. "You really have become corrupted. You're one of us! You aren't any different. You-"

Another backhand sent him crashing face-first into the dirt.

"She is nothing like you. Scum." Fang snarled, laying fist after fist into his face. "I want you to know. I was just on the phone to my sister earlier Rosch. Data analyst in the cyber-crimes division. Vanille Dia sends her regards."

The shock and rage warring on his face was almost as satisfying as what she was about to do to him, but naturally not enough. "Yun Fang! Wait! Please!" He shouted and flinched from the movement of Fang's arms. She paused and looked over her shoulder at her partner, eyes dark and almost inhuman with their rage.

"Light, go back to the car. I... Wouldn't watch this darlin'. I'm not going to be forgiving."

Lightning stayed silent and stood her ground. She would not turn from Fang now. The brunette bowed her head and turned back to the disgraced Commissioner. "This is for all those girls, those slaves, for Yuna, and for Gadot you son of a bitch."

She didn't turn away at every bone broken, every bloody wound that was brutally inflicted. Even as he stared at her, eyes pleading for her to intervene. It wasn't until Fang pulled out her weapon and aimed it at his head that Lightning finally turned, and walked back to the car.

How far we have fallen, Farron.

A few tears slipped down her cheeks as a single gunshot cracked through the night air behind her.

Chapter Text

Fang was sitting in her office, feet up on the desk while chatting away to Lightning and Sazh. After the mess with the commissioner a couple of weeks ago and them getting closer to finding his kid he decided to stick around to help, but of course acknowledging the new leader of the pack.

"So how's Gadot?" He asked between puffs of smoke. Fang shrugged and toyed with a blade in her hands.

"So so. He's stable. I'm paying off the ward staff's student debts just to keep them quiet about him being in there. Noel and Paine have been keeping guard over his room."

Lightning reached over and squeezed her hand. "As soon as he's given the clear, we'll have him transferred down here. I've already been talking with the doctor to make sure the infirmary will be set up to take him." She said quietly. The Pulsian smiled and brought the pale hand to her lips, kissing the knuckles gently in thanks.

"In the interim," Fang said with a yawn, "I'd really like to focus on wiping out the fucking Seraphim, followed by the rest of the arseholes under Fal'Cie rule. Any ideas?"

Lightning went to say something then but was interrupted by Fang's phone ringing. "Hold that thought Sunshine... Mmmmmyello? Oh hey 'Nille. What's up? ... What? No I... When?... Nobody I know would have... Unless... No. No. Also no. Look I'll handle it. Call me if you hear anything. OK. Be safe missy." She hung up the phone with a dark expression. A mixture of hurt and rage.

"Everything ok?" The pinkette asked, concern gracing her features.

"No. No, it's not." Fang's voice cracked. Instinctively Lightning reached out for her and was startled by the Pulsian rolling her shoulder away out of reach.

"That was 'Nille. Said she got sent a disk from a colleague asking them to crack it. She's the best in the biz you see. Said a source had given it to him. It's taken months but she finally got in this morning. That's when she discovered it was the hard drive from our little bank heist a few months back."

Rygdea you idiot why did you give the hard drive to her!

Lightning's heart started to race. "Fang, it was months ago… I couldn't get into the files and... I wanted to get us answers... I didn't think they'd involve..." She choked, voice wavering with fear and distress. The Pulsian slammed her hands down on the desk and stood, storming around until she was dangerously close.

"You couldn't have come to me? I have resources of my own without getting the fucking Psicom division involved! I warned you about this Lightning, this is why you don't go behind my back to try to sort shit on your own! There was a failsafe on the hard drive and it's alerted the gang! Now Vanille is in their cross-hairs!" Fang raged, her fury making her movements erratic. Sazh sat up, watching the tension in the room rapidly escalate and subtly checked his weapon was within reach.

Lightning's phone rang, and Fang reluctantly let her answer it. "Light it's me!" Rygdea's panicked voice yelled down the line. "We got a major problem... That hard drive-"

"It had a failsafe on it I know."

"How did you... Never mind that, that's not the issue! It's WHO the failsafe came from! I gotta get my data kid outta Psicom fast. It's from them! Jihl's name was all over the files she recovered!" The colour drained from Lightning's face as the implications hit her full force.

"Shit. Where is she? We'll be right there."

"It's too late. They're already at the headquarters Farron, and I'm already out. I'm near the Warrens now, I'll meet you outside of that main warehouse so we can figure out a plan of attack to rescue her." He hung up and Lightning held the silent phone to her ear for a few moments longer to attempt to settle her breathing. She looked at the cold fury electrifying Fang's stare and pocketed the phone.

"Fang. We've gotta get your sister out of Psicom." She ran for the garage before the brunette could protest or stop her. She leapt into one of the sedans and kicked the motor on as Fang and Sazh caught up. The Pulsian slammed the door shut and immediately pulled a gun on the pinkette.

"What's going on Light? You are going to give me a straight answer now." She cocked the hammer back, not interested in messing around. Her sister was in danger because of Lightning's mistake, and she was too far gone in her anger to care she was pointing a gun at a woman she was kissing not five minutes prior.

"I will tell you everything and more and will leave my deserved fate in your hands. I promise you." Lightning replied, staring straight ahead and gripping the steering wheel until her fingers burned, "But once we get your sister out of Psicom's hands." The silence stretched on for what felt like an eternity. Fang felt ice creeping through her veins at the slow realisation that this was far more complicated than just a simple fumble with a data clerk. She gripped the gun tighter, mind raging and heart warring with her over what she was doing.

"Fang, if we're gonna go rescue your sister, we better go now." Sazh gently urged from the back seat.

She narrowed her eyes and snarled, before holstering the weapon. Lightning gunned the engine, speeding off through the main tunnel. Rygdea was waiting for them at the exit.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Lightning hissed.

"Amodar called. They've taken analyst Vanille Dia and are shortly headed to one of the blackout sites. I think we wound up stumbling on something huge."

"We?" Fang growled, "What the fuck is this we? Who the hell are you? You don't look like a lowly data clerk to me."

"Fang please. He's here to help, we're going to go get your sister back." Lightning implored.

"Sister? Vanille is her friggin' sister? You've gotta be kidding me..." Rygdea complained with a hand to his head.

"Shut up and get in the car Rygdea." Lightning snapped. He clamped his jaw and quickly complied, sliding in next to Sazh.

The Pulsian looked away with a set jaw. A profound look of hurt flashed across her face before it vanished under the mask of fury that replaced it. They drove the rest of the way in silence before Rygdea finally broke it. "So the hard drive. Cid doesn't know yet, I haven't been able to get a hold of him but… Dysley's the head of the Fal'Cie."

Lightning nearly slammed on the brakes by accident as she gripped the wheel in shock. "Galenth Dysley. Head of Psicom Dysley. Etro. How deep does this go Rygdea?"

"Too deep."

Lightning's phone rang again and she answered it curtly.

"What do you wa- Wait. Snow. Slow down. Breathe for Etro's sake. What? When? How many? Fuck. I know where they're going. I want you to go down to the Warrens, go to the bar in the central end, Via Infinito. Find Lebreau, tell them Lightning sent you and to keep you out of sight. I'll be there as soon as I can."

She hung up and took a few breaths before slamming the steering wheel repeatedly, causing the car to swerve a little. "Fuck! Son of a bitch FUCK."

Even Fang was startled by the outburst, temporarily forgetting her intense rage towards the woman. "What is it?"

"That bitch Nabaat… She's ordered a Psicom squad to arrest my sister."

"What the hell?" Rygdea exclaimed from the back seat, "Why in Lindzei's name would she… Aw fuck they're using her as bait aren't they? Jihl's in on all of this shit."

Fang looked thoughtful for a moment. "They don't know about my relationship with 'Nille so they're using your sister to draw us out," She glanced behind her with a raised eyebrow, "Mate, the mob you work for is fucking nuts. Pfft. They call me the criminal."

Lightning's jaw tightened and she pressed harder on the accelerator, going through old prayers to Etro and the guardian Odin in her head. She looked over at Fang who had refused to meet her eyes since she had pulled a gun on the pinkette, and blinked away tears.

Lightning moved on from her internal prayers and began working on her goodbyes.

"Hey, are you ok? Hey! Wake up!" Serah's eyes fluttered open to see a concerned redhead with bright green eyes looking down at her.

"Oh! Where am I?" Sarah asked as she slowly sat up. The petite girl shrugged in response.

"Wish I knew. My name's Vanille. How about yours?"

"Serah. Nice to meet you... You know, given the circumstances." They had a moment of quiet chuckling, ceasing as locks on the door creaked and the door groaned open. Several armed guards spilled into the room and the two girls huddled closer together. The sound of clicking heels got closer until a tall blonde woman strode into the room. She was slapping a baton in her hand in a display of intimidation.

"Well, I must say this is a somewhat unprofessional approach to your line of duty Miss Dia." The woman flicked her incredibly long hair over her shoulder as she paced before them. "Diving into that hard drive was... How shall we say... Above your pay grade."

"Why?" Vanille bit back, "because I cracked it quicker than your top cyber crime division operatives? Or because your name is littered through it as a major stakeholder in the bank?"

The blonde's eyes narrowed.

"Be that as it may, we will be dealing with you shortly. In the meantime, a sibling does make the best bait..."

Vanille's heart skipped a beat and her mouth hung open. How did they figure it out? I've been so careful...

"Is that why I'm here? What do you want with Claire?" Serah interjected, standing in front of the red head and refusing to be intimidated by Nabaat.

Vanille turned, frowning at the young girl with her. What? Claire...?

"If your sister wasn't so disgustingly honest she would have been handsomely paid under my watch. Instead, she had to go snooping around where she shouldn't have been." Jihl sneered, shaking her head in disgust. The woman stormed out, flanked by her guards as the door slammed shut and locked. Vanille's mind raced and she was sick with dread. The familial resemblance was obvious.

Serah sighed. "I knew Claire shouldn't have taken that undercover assignment..."

The Pulsian's stomach lurched. "Undercover assignment you say..." She said cautiously. The young pinkette nodded.

"She was charged by Psicom to infiltrate the NORA gang. She's been gone for months. I miss her."

The pink hair, the blue eyes… the resemblance isn't a coincidence. She's Lightning's sister. Rygdea must be her handler then... Vanille concluded with a sinking feeling. Oh Fang, what kind of mess have you gotten yourself into…

"Vanille? Are we in trouble?"

The redhead could only nod, staring up at the small window in the cell.

"Man, she doesn't let up for a second, does she?" Rygdea asked Lightning as they watched Fang vault over a container, smashing into a Psicom guard and taking him with a well-placed crack from her lance.

Sazh laughed and shook his head despite the circumstances. "Buddy you have no idea."

"I think it's safe to say all of these guys are on the Fal'Cie payroll.." Lightning replied, cutting through a guard's rifle like clay with her blade, before converting it back to gun form and providing Fang with cover fire. "Come on Rygdea, where will they be keeping Vanille and Serah?" she asked as they ran further into the compound.

"The interrogation barracks are on the south-western side, that's likely where they're being kept." He replied, ducking behind a building to escape a hail of bullets flying in their direction. Fang pulled her own assault rifle she'd taken from one of the guards and returned the favour, dropping two of them with an angry roar.

They reached the barracks with minimal further resistance, which made Lightning feel uneasy. They crept through the halls with weapons drawn, until they came upon two Psicom agents guarding a door.

"I think we've found our location," Rygdea whispered, "Now one of us might be able to distract the guards and draw their fire-"

Fang took off at a sprint and hurled her lance as hard as she could down the hall. It flew through the air, striking the closest soldier and impaling him. The momentum sent him flying into the other guard. Before he could get up, Fang was already above him, and off loaded two bullets through his helmet, with a third going through the lock on the door. She kicked it open and ran inside, with Lightning close behind.

"Fang!" Vanille cried out and ran towards the brunette. They hugged each other tightly, and Fang stroked her sibling's red hair.

"S'alright 'Nille. I got you now."

"Serah! Are you alright?" Lightning ran past them and embraced her sister.

"I'm fine, I'm fine. Claire what's going on?" The elder Farron flinched at the sound of her real name, her sister not remembering the position she was in while she was distressed. Lightning glanced over Serah's shoulder and met Fang's eyes. They were dark with hurt and rage, but the Pulsian otherwise said nothing.

"Guys?" Rygdea's voice called out from the entrance, "We gotta book! A whole bunch of reinforcements just showed up and they're making a beeline for this place!"

There would be time for reunions later. Right now, they had to get out alive. "There's an air hangar down the hall here, there should be something we can use to escape." Rygdea gestured to follow him and they all took off at a rapid pace. Turning a corner, they were met with a dozen armed soldiers with their guns trained on them ready to fire.

"That's far enough thank you." A voice rang out from behind the armed soldiers. Lightning ground her teeth in anger.

"Should have known that stench was that disgusting perfume you marinate in Jihl." She growled, gripping at the hilt of her gunblade.

"Now now, LieutenantClaireFarron. Is that any way to speak to your superior?" Nabaat jeered as she stepped into view. Fang's eyes widened and the fury behind them could have started to melt the walls. It was one thing to think that Lightning was an informant, but an actual cop? A viper? She felt like she was swallowing bricks with the revelation, her throat dry and stomach in knots.

"What a glorious day indeed. The new head of NORA, the infamous Titan, and the constant thorn in my side. All in one fell swoop. Now Farron, I would hate to see anything happen to your sister by doing anything rash." Jihl drawled, pleased with herself at having the upper hand. Lightning's shoulders sagged and she dropped her weapon, raising her hands in surrender.

Rygdea swallowed hard and placed his gun on the ground as well, keeping Vanille and Sarah behind him for protection. Sazh ground his teeth and looked over at Fang, shaking his head. "Now is not the time, Fang. Bitch has this round." He whispered quietly, not daring to touch her while she practically vibrated with rage.

Try as she might, Fang couldn't risk defying the creed. She wasn't willing to let any harm come to Serah, or her own sister for that matter. She threw her weapon down with a snarl, shoving her hands into her pockets.

The guards surrounded them and led them down the hall, shoving them one by one into another cell. Sarah huddled close to Lightning, and she held her sister close. "Serah... I'm..."

"Don't say it. We'll be ok."

The elder Farron kissed the top of her siblings head gently and wiped the tears away with her thumb. "Whatever happens Serah, I'm proud of you, and I love y-"

Lightning choked on her words as a guard grabbed her and yanked her back by the collar of her shirt, away from her sister's grasp.

"Not so fast lieutenant. I have a... Special debriefing you need to attend." Jihl said with a grin, not caring that her tone was giving away her very obvious sinister motive. The guard grabbed Lightning and dragged her from the cell. Fang's hate-filled glare was the last thing Lightning saw, and Sarah's cries were the last thing she heard before she was pulled away to a room down the hall.

The cell door slammed shut and the small group was in silence, Serah feeling on the outer and staying close to Rygdea for safety. Vanille served as the bridge between them, sitting next to Fang and Sazh in the other corner. The elder Pulsian hadn't said a word, her jaw clenched tighter than an iron trap.

"Where's Claire?" the pinkette asked Rygdea with a whisper, hoping that the others wouldn't hear.

Fang scoffed and folded her arms. "Probably out receiving a promotion and a couple of medals, the fucking traitorous viper." she growled with a cracking voice, staring at the cell door.

Vanille held her sister's arm gently and shook her head. "Fang... If that's the case, why is her sister still locked in a cell with us?"

"I don't fucking know!" the Pulsian yelled, standing up and pacing within the small space. "Clearly I don't know how any of this works if I've somehow managed to let a fucking cop get close to me for the last six months! I let that viper into my gang! My life! My hea-" Fang silenced herself with a sob and punched the wall. Her chest felt like it was in a vice grip.

"Not that it's worth anything," Serah said quietly as she stared the brunette down, "But she held all the signs of assimilation into the gang. Wouldn't be the first time. Too easy for her to fall back into old habits."

Rygdea put a hand on Serah's shoulder to calm her, but she shrugged it off and moved to the door. "Kid's right. She was compromised months ago."

"The fuck is that even supposed to mean?" Fang seethed, ready to take his head off.

"While you guys made headways against the others involved with the Fal'Cie, we haven't gotten any intel from about your gang in months. The only reason we didn't extract her was that she wouldn't let us. We knew her history. It's why we picked her. We knew what we were getting her into." Rygdea said with an apologetic glance at the younger Farron. "Taking out the Fal'Cie was the bigger fish than dismantling the last of NORA, so the director let her go even though we all knew it would mean she was likely not coming back."

"If that's supposed to make me feel better, you can go fuck yourself." Fang growled and faced the tiny window.

She paced in the cramped space, chest heaving as she tried to exhale the agony from her body. She let her in. She trusted her. She hated herself for letting Lightning in. She hated herself for still having the creeping feeling of dread that something terrible was happening to her beyond the cell walls, and that she should care. She hated that she was worried for Lightning despite the revelation of her betrayal.

Her concerns were made a reality when she heard the screaming start and instinctively raced to the door alongside Serah. The young pinkette turned to her with tears in her eyes.

"Does that sound like she's getting a medal to you, Fang?"

Chapter Text

Blood splattered across the floor as Lightning spat it from her mouth. "Come now Lieutenant," Jihl purred while twirling a hammer in her hands, "You would make it so much easier on yourself if you just told me what I wanted to know."

"Go to hell." Her captive growled, voice broken from pain. The commander shrugged and turned, smashing the hammer down on the pinkette's bare foot.

Lightning couldn't suppress the scream that tore from her throat, the agony of crushing bone overwhelming her senses. Her vision hazed, and her head spun. Jihl pulled a pen knife from her belt and slid the blade across the pinkette's face.

Nabaat smiled cruelly at the gurgling in the lieutenant's throat and slashed the knife slowly across her stomach. "I can do this all night Farron. I have endless patience."

"Bullshit," Lightning spat again, hoping to get blood in that smug face, "I'm getting out of here, and then I'm going to kill you Nabaat. You and the rest of your Fal'Cie friends."

Jihl sneered and drew the knife into the pinkette's collar bone at a crawling pace, bringing more screams to the surface. Lightning was clinging to consciousness for dear life, knowing that if she blacked out she was done for.

"Such insubordination is unbecoming of such a decorated officer!" Jihl snidely remarked, drawing more bloodied lines across her chest like they were badges, and across her left shoulder she carved two deep, slow cuts to match what would otherwise designate her rank on her uniform. Nabaat leaned back, admiring her work with a satisfied smile.

"It's really simple Lieutenant Farron. Give me the codes to the bunkers that you stole, so we can retrieve our property that you also stole and we can call it a night."

Lightning turned away from her in abject refusal. A few more savage cuts across her body and then her jaw was grabbed roughly, forcing her to meet Jihl's eyes. "Come on Claire, clock's ticking. Why are you protecting them? Your sister is in that cell with Yun Fang, hmm? That Pulsian lowlife could be doing any number of things to her right now, as vengeance for your betrayal."

Lightning's gut twisted at the thought. The cold hatred in the jade eyes she'd become so fond of hurt her deeply. It broke her heart that she caused Fang pain, and for a moment she feared for her sister's life. At the behest of Fang's rage, Serah could be broken. She remembered what she'd witnessed with Yaag and paled.

But then, she also remembered a night in the cavern with Fang, as she spoke to her softly and played with her hair. Another time, where life was no less complex but at least she was happier.

Life is sacred Lightning, regardless of how deep we go with this I never take one flippantly.

Lightning smiled at the commander, trying to draw air into her lungs. "Nice… Try. Almost had me… Convinced for a minute there. You don't… Know her like I do."

Jihl backhanded her again, knocking her onto the floor. Before she could lay a heel into her, the cell phone on the nearby table rang. She huffed and answered it angrily. "I'm a little busy at the moment, what?!"

"So much for that endless patience Nabaat..." Lightning chuckled behind her before coughing up blood. The blonde whirled on the lieutenant and kicked her in the stomach for good measure. "... Right. I'm on my way, sir." She hung up and kicked Lightning a few more times in anger before recomposing herself, tucking her hair behind her ear.

"You've just been given a few hours reprieve while I take care of other business. Now that I've found Gadot Tsu that's at least one less problem to deal with. When I come back we're going to finish this little chat, maybe even get your sister to join us. Try not to bleed out on the floor while I'm away." Jihl growled as she stormed from the room.

If the room was silent, Lightning couldn't tell. The pounding in her head, ringing in her ears and throbbing of every over-sensitized nerve from the interrogation drowned out anything else. Every breath was laboured and agonizing, and every time she blinked she feared she wasn't going to open her eyes again.

Lightning was still on her side, tied to the chair. The fall however loosened the placing of the rope, allowing for some movement. She started to shimmy her way up the chair, breathing heavy from the pain and exertion. She heard the footsteps of an approaching guard outside and quickly got herself free. The corrupt Psicom officer entered the room just as she got her arms loose from the chair and he yelled in panic. He kicked her hard, sending both her and the chair crashing into the wall.

The chair splintered on impact and Lightning smiled at the unintended assistance. Her expression faltered slightly as the guard picked her up by the collar. With a flash of movement, she swung her freed arms around as hard as she could, smashing into the guard's ears. He screamed and dropped to the floor, temporarily deafened. She cried out as she hit the ground and took a couple of seconds to catch her breath.

Lightning clawed her way off the ground and clambered on top of him. She pinned his arms as best she could and pressed her knee into his throat until he lost consciousness, not caring if she just crushed his larynx. She fell back, panting and pained. "Thanks for the hand." She growled at the body and searched him for anything of use. She found the cell phone first and quickly dialed Paine's number.

"You've got a wrong number." The silver-haired woman drawled down the phone.

"Paine it's me!" Lightning rasped, praying the woman wasn't about to hang up.

"Lightning? You gotta stick with a phone number for more than a month, it's hard to keep track. Noel, Rikku and I are here just visiting our friendly neighbourhood Tank. Wanna say hey?" she said cheerfully as she put Lightning on speaker.

"Paine listen to me... You have to get Gadot out of the hospital now. Psicom have found him... They're on their way."

Scuffling could be heard in the background as Paine and the others hurriedly disconnected the wires and monitors. "Shit Light, why you always gotta make my days more complicated... And why do you sound like you're hurt? What's going on?"

Lightning was busy cutting through the ropes on her legs to free what was left of her bindings. "I am. Nothing good. Put the HQ on lock down, arm everyone... For good measure. Paine... Look after yourself. And Rikku too. She loves you."

"Wait what? Lightning what the fu-"

She hung up before Paine's protests could be heard and picked up the gun from the guard's belt. Her right eye was swollen shut and she was lightheaded from the injuries and blood loss. Testing her injured foot, she counted at least three broken toes, which would significantly hamper her movement. Probably about the same number of ribs too.

Finding a set of keys as the last item of interest, she hobbled barefoot over to the door and unlocked it. The corridors were silent, save for the occasional chatter of radio from nearby guards and barely audible dripping of her blood on the floor. She locked the cell door behind her and snapped the key in the barrel.

Creeping down the hallways, Lightning retraced her steps until she came across the cell where the others were kept. She left a trail of blood on the floor and a smear of blood on the wall every time she leaned against it as she limped along. She peered around the corner carefully and spied two guards, both armed, and she was out of time. Who knew when Jihl would be back. She had to act now. She rounded the corner and fired her gun, dropping them both instantly with perfect head shots, which surprised her considering she could only see out of one eye at present, and that was blurry at best.

"What's goin' on out there?" Sazh called out from within the cell. Lightning limped to their cell and started rifling through the keys until she found the one she was looking for. The door swung open with a screech of rusted metal and the group inside were met with a terrifying sight.

Lightning clutched at her side as she bled on the floor, breathing heavy and coloured black and red all over from the torture she'd received at the hands of the hideous commander. The cut down the side of her face marred her appearance and gave her a frightening profile when half her face was obscured with blood and bruising.

"Claire!" Serah cried and rushed to her sister's side, tears streaming down her face at the condition the elder Farron was in. Even Fang felt a tugging at her heart at the sight and fought with herself, lowering her hand that was outstretched towards the woman in reflex. Despite the anger she felt for being betrayed, her instincts were still to rush to the broken woman and hold her close. Her appearance was distressing, and the Pulsian was overwhelmed at the barbarity of the wounds inflicted. Her jaw hung open in horror as she looked at the extent of the damage.

"Claire, why did they do this to you?" Serah asked fearfully as she held her sister close. Lightning coughed and spat out blood.

"Wanted... Codes to... The HQ so... They could take the girls back and... Kill everyone. Wouldn't... Let them... Fang... They know where Gadot is."

"No thanks to you I'm sure." The brunette snapped in response, stepping close into her space. Lightning shook her head sadly and looked at the gun in her hand.

"No... Jihl got the call while... She was laying into me. Gave me the chance to... Escape... Stole phone and called Paine... She is moving him to safety..."

Fang frowned in confusion and her heart hurt. "Why continue the facade? You're a viper. I get it. Like you really give a shit. You can stop rubbing salt in the wound by pretending you care." She growled and went to move past her. A bloodied hand gripped her arm tightly as if Lightning was using the last of her waning strength to be heard.

"I. Do. Care." She replied and stared hard at the Pulsian woman, expression firm. She threw the gun into Fang's hand. "I can't fight like... This. Get us all out of here... Fang, and you can... Do whatever you want... With me after. I'll take... The sentence." Lightning said between laboured breaths, Holding up her finger to silence any protest from her sister.

Fang stared at the bloodied hand print left on her arm and fought the tears back from her eyes with a clenched jaw. She wanted to kill her. She wanted to break her as badly as she looked for betraying her. She wanted to kiss her. She wanted to hold her and tell her that she didn't care that she was a cop, to beg her to stay no matter what. She hated being so torn.

Yelling rang out from down the corridor as guards flooded it, racing towards them. Fang snarled and moved out from the cell, firing into everything that moved.

"Rygdea.. Escape option... Please..." Lightning rasped, her movements becoming weaker by the minute. He dipped down and slung an arm around his shoulder to help Serah led the lieutenant to safety.

Rygdea led them out of the barracks and towards a mechanical shed. A few velocycles were parked in the maintenance bay and they tested them out until they found two that worked. Vanille and Sazh jumped on one while Rygdea jumped on the other with Serah at the Elder Farron's prompting. They started them up and began to move them out of the garage. "Just go, I'll... Catch up.." Lightning said wearily, watching them accelerate away. She then collapsed against the wall and slid down, blood trailing as she fell. "I'm going to just rest here now." She whispered to herself, exhausted and pained. She was prepared to be left behind, and a part of her was relieved. At least she could finally rest.

Fang looked over at Lightning and growled. Her tanned arm reached towards the pinkette and pulled her onto the bike behind her as she brought it past. "You're an idiot. And so am I for trusting you. But I'm not leaving you here to die."

"Fang... I.." Lightning's lip quivered as she spoke, tears making a trail through the blood on her face.

"Save it." The Pulsian snapped as she gunned the engine and sped out of the compound into the surrounding woods. Lightning stayed silent, struggling to stay conscious. A few times she blacked out and could swear she saw concern lacing the jade irises looking back at her every time she came to until she finally passed out when they were safely back in the Warrens.

Fang picked her up and carried her through the garage back at the headquarters, pain lancing through her heart with every step. Lightning looked so broken in her arms. The pinkette moved in her arms, pressing into her weakly and rubbing her head against the brunette's shoulder. Fang fought back the desire to kiss her on the head and choked on a sob. Maybe the younger sister was right. Maybe she had been compromised.

Gadot was in the infirmary with Lebreau when everyone arrived and both were shocked to see Vanille in tow. "Shit must have really gone south if you're here little sister," Gadot said as he wrapped his giant hand around the redhead's dwarfed fingers and squeezed. "But it's been so long since I've seen you... You're not so little anymore!"

His cheery disposition vanished in the wake of Fang carrying Lightning into the room and placing her on a bed. The doctor from the Warrens had already arrived to start working on his latest patient, and Gadot looked over at his long-time friend with no small amount of concern.

Rikku and Paine rushed in and the blonde gasped when they saw Lightning's condition. "Shit... She wasn't joking when she said she was injured.." Paine muttered, holding Rikku close. "Fang... What..?" she asked, receiving no response. She dipped her head and stepped away from the ice cold Pulsian, choosing distance as a safety tactic and walked over to meet Vanille.

Lebreau looked over at Fang who had remained distant since they got back, just watching the doctor with a tight jaw as he worked on Lightning.

Rygdea introduced himself awkwardly, which prompted a few raised guns in his direction until Vanille calmed everyone down and explained what had happened, at least up until them being caught at the Psicom facility. Sazh took a moment to let him know he was welcome to stay for a beer and a bed, to which Rygdea was very thankful for. The now ex-Psicom officer allowed himself to be led out of the room, stealing one last worried glance over his shoulder at his colleague, prone and unconscious on the bed.

The gang cleared out of the infirmary to allow the doctor to work, with the exception of Fang, who kept a silent, stony vigil in the doorway. The others didn't know what to say and left her alone. Sarah refused to leave her sister's side, glaring defiantly at the Pulsian. Snow edged his way into the room and quietly went over to his fiancé, holding her tightly as she cried in his arms.

Fang's eyes narrowed at the doctor as he worked, and she gritted her teeth at the younger sibling. "Paine. Take these guys to find a meal." She ordered the silver-haired woman as she crept past the doorway, trying to avoid interacting with her volatile boss.

Serah stood and balled her fists, standing in front of her sister's bed. "I'm not letting you hurt her."

Fang moved to the side to let Paine in and growled. "You'll notice I wasn't. Asking."

Serah stood in her space, refusing to be intimidated. "And you'll notice I'm not. Leaving."

They stared each other down for a moment before Fang closed her eyes and exhaled heavily through her nose. "Serah, why would I be letting a doctor patch her up if I was just going to kill her? Just... Go get something to eat." She said sadly, turning and walking out of the infirmary.

Serah watched her go, curious about the defeated body language displayed by the Pulsian. Looks like Claire wasn't the only one compromised...


Lightning's return to consciousness was sporadic. At times she would open her eyes, the world fuzzy and find her sister bending over her, grabbing her hand. Other times she'd awaken to find Fang standing at the foot of her bed, pointing a gun at her. Or sitting by her bed side, alone, quietly sobbing into her hands.

Her unconscious world was just as turbulent. Shattered mirrors and bloodied police badges. Her rank on her shoulder melting into her arm, becoming the deep wounds Jihl had inflicted. The criminal, the officer, and the criminal. Memories of her life that brought her to this point immersed her in her past.

"Kid's got potential. Small hands. Good for wiring up cars." Kefka said, shoving his hands in his pockets and rocking back on his feet.

She quickly jimmied open the door, thankful the older car had no alarm. She pulled out her tool set and quickly went to work. Repeating the steps over in her head, muttering to herself as she stripped one wire, then another, then another. Sparking them brought the car roaring to life, and brought a smile to her face.

"Record time kid! You're a fast learner!" The wiry man cheered as he eyed off his boss. Auron turned to Kefka and nodded approvingly. "Valefor will indeed have a use for her. Come here Farron, let's go over some details for your new... After school job."

The world around her darkened, and she heard her own voice screaming obscenities behind a closed door. She opened it slowly, to come face to face with her father. She reached out for him, her hand passing through him like mist.

"I can't believe this Claire. Drugs? In my own house? I raised you to be better than this!" He shouted, pacing in the messy bedroom. A teenage Claire folded her arms and scoffed.

"You didn't raise me at all! Since mom died you've barely been home. But I found a new family, one that actually looks out for me!"

Her father rubbed his face roughly with his hands. "The Valefor gang? Are you kidding me? Etro's Gate Claire... If my superiors find out you're running for them... I don't know if I can protect you."

"So report me then. Cuff me. Arrest me and take me to prison then. At least I'll be out of your life and you can just have your perfect daughter Serah!"

Lightning's jaw clenched, remembering the argument clearly. She closed her eyes and shuddered, knowing what came next. She turned, to see her stone-faced at her father's funeral.

The priest was rattling off a eulogy at the church of Etro in Bodhum. Claire looked away from the coffin, tears forming in her eyes. She barely paid attention. She felt dissociated from the proceedings, only coming back to herself when Serah clutched at her arm.

"It's not your fault sis." She whispered quietly and rest her head against her sibling's shoulder.

"Yes, it is," Claire replied, staring at the coffin being lowered into the ground. "He was there because of me. He chased after me. If I hadn't run off..."

Serah pursed her lips and held tighter. "No more. Please, Claire. Promise me you're done. I can't lose you as well."

"Ok, Serah. I promise." She said, emotion choking her voice.

Turning at the sound of shuffling papers, Lightning saw Amodar at his desk, looking stern. She winced. That fateful conversation. She thought, flexing her fingers as the office moved towards her rapidly, throwing her face first into the memory.

"Quite the extensive sheet you've got here Farron." Amodar mused, his mustache twitching with mild annoyance. "Thought your dad would have raised you be-"

"Don't you dare bring him into this." Claire snapped, vocal for the first time since her arrest. Amodar hummed, flipping through the paperwork slowly, drawing out the process deliberately to make her squirm.

"You know that you're a year off being an adult Farron. That means that if I find you in my precinct again, you'll be tried as an adult. Aren't you tired? Aren't you fed up? Your dad willingly gave his life so that you could get out of the game, and instead, you threw yourself straight back into it."

"Does it look like I had a choice?" Claire seethed, tears stinging at her eyes. "I had to provide for Serah, nobody would give me a job because of my record, and we would have been thrown in the system otherwise, and I would have lost her. What else would you have me do?"

They were interrupted by a knock at the door. A tall young man entered, well dressed and dark hair falling over his eyes. "I hope I'm not interrupting…" He said cautiously, and Amodar shook his head, waving him inside.

"This. This is what I would have you do Farron. Claire, Listen," The captain said, leaning back in his chair. "Second chances don't come often, and you've gotta grab onto them and hang on for dear life. We're giving you the opportunity to have that second chance. This is agent Raines from the Psicom division. We've been discussing how to handle your particular…. Situation… And we believe we've come up with a solution."

The agent nodded and turned to Claire. "Give us all the intel you have on the Valefor gang, and we'll expunge your record. And give you a scholarship to the academy, so you can finish your last year of high school studying for the entrance exam to the Guardian Corps. You and your sister stay out of the system, and you can work to build a better life. Either that or the captain here will likely see you back here in a year's time, with enough evidence to put you away for a long time and then your sister will disappear into the system."

"Your choice Farron." Amodar said with an air of finality, shutting the folder on her record and standing up. "What'll it be?"

The bright fluorescent tubes buzzed above Lightning's head, her eyes slowly opening as they adjusted to the light. Serah had been keeping a vigil by her bedside and leapt up.

"Claire! You're awake!" she cried out, making her elder sibling wince.

"Easy. Serah... God... Why are you... So loud.." Lightning rasped, slowly looking around the room. Her throat felt dry and her eyes stung, but that was nothing compared to the full body ache. "How long..?"

"About a week," Serah replied, holding the elder Farron's hand and trying not to cry.

"Eden... Memorial..?"

Serah shook her head, worrying her lip nervously. "N-no Claire... We're at the NORA gang's base."

HQ...? Why? How am I not dead yet?

She looked towards the doorway and saw Paine's eyes on her. "Nice to see you're finally awake. I'll go get the boss." She turned on her heels and left. Lightning frowned and looked at her younger sister quizzically.

"I don't... I don't think she's told anyone yet."


"Serah can... You go get the doctor for me? He'll be here somewhere in the lobby near the bar if he isn't in here." Lightning said quietly, the younger Farron missing the tears in her eyes. Serah nodded and withdrew from the bed, racing out the door.

As soon as she was gone from view, Lightning threw back the covers and sat up, grimacing in pain. "Goddess.." she gasped as her ribs protested the movement. She swung her legs over the edge of the bed and carefully stood. She caught sight of herself in a mirror and her eyebrows raised. Bandages everywhere, scabbed and bruised terribly. Jihl really has done a number on me, hasn't she...

Lightning hobbled over to the doorway, peering out towards the lobby. She saw Serah waving her arms frantically at the doctors and smiled wistfully. "I'm sorry, Serah. I'm sorry I couldn't keep that promise." She whispered and disappeared down the hallway.

A few minutes later Fang burst into the infirmary to find Lightning had vanished. How she managed to move so quickly despite being so injured was a mystery. The tunnel network was vast, there would be plenty of places she could have escaped to, where she could be hiding. Fortunately for Fang, she knew exactly where she would have gone. Her phone buzzed and she picked it up, to find a message from Lightning, confirming her suspicions.

"You know where I'll be. I'll be waiting, come what may."

Chapter Text

Fang made her way to the caverns, quietly slipping through the door and creeping across the courtyard. She was surprised to hear soft crying, and found Lightning in their usual spot, with her head buried in her bandaged arms with her knees curled against her chest. The sight made her slow down and her heart ache despite how hurt she felt about being betrayed.

"I figured I'd have a nice calm place as a final view. It holds... Good memories for me." A croaky, hoarse voice said quietly. Lightning lifted her head wearily and turned to look at Fang with red eyes and a tear streaked face.

The Pulsian was torn between wanting to shoot her and wanting to fall to her knees and wipe the tears away. "So. Claire huh. Doesn't suit you any better than Aranea you know." She said gruffly. Lightning looked out to the rippling water and sighed.

"I never felt either did."

The silence dragged out between them before Lightning relented.

"So you wanted answers and I promised I would provide them. My name is Claire Farron. I'm a lieutenant for the Bodhum division Guardian Corps. Psicom picked me for an undercover mission to infiltrate the remnants of the NORA gang to locate the whereabouts of the former leader Titan, as it was suspected he was still running underground activities despite the gang's downfall."

"So I guess the break out was a slight dent in your plans," Fang said with a huff as she folded her arms in a defensive posture.

Lightning nodded. "My superiors demanded I continue undercover to see what could be found, especially in light of finding out about the international cartel." She stood and walked over to Fang.

"And what did you find?"

"A slightly unhinged maniac with predilections towards violence who took little regard for personal space, risks or consequences. But also, someone who showed compassion, loyalty, a sense of community... Someone I had a hard time reconciling with the reports verses the real you." She admitted with a flush. Fang saw the colour on the pinkette's cheeks and felt curious of the emotions behind them. When cerulean eyes raised to meet her own though the hurt returned in droves. She pushed Lightning back against the wall, pinning her wrists above her head.

"And yet I let you in. To everything. A viper in my home. Learning all our secrets, all our plans, putting Sazh at risk... Putting my sister at risk!"

The cerulean eyes burned with anger and she attempted to push back against the hands trapping her in place. "Learning your plans? I GAVE you the plans. I was the one who got your ass out of the court house when you were fully prepared to go out in a hail of bullets. I was the one who organised the details for the bank heist. For the raid on the shipping yard. Yaag's compound to free Yuna and the others. You deferred to me time and time again."

Quietly seething, Fang ground her teeth and got in the pinkette's face. "How am I to know now that all of that elaborate planning wasn't part of a larger setup? That somewhere down the line there's now a great big steel trap hovering over my head, ready to snap shut? You lied to me. Was the job promotion you copped out of it worth the price?"

"No. It wasn't, and there wasn't any job offer. Just the perpetual dangled carrot." Lightning replied, despairing and fighting back tears. "I worked so hard to turn my life around, to provide for Serah, and it turns out I've been just a puppet for the Fal'Cie all along. They weren't interested in bringing down NORA, until you broke out there was no NORA! They just used me to try and find Sazh so they could tie up loose ends. My whole career is a lie. Everything I've worked for, was all for nothing."

Fang suddenly lashed out and struck her, sending her to the ground. "So what, I'm supposed to just boo hoo to the poor little police girl when she has been lying to me the entire time? Risking the lives of my friends and family with your betrayal?" she roared, fists clenching for another round.

Lightning's jaw stung from where she'd been hit, and she grit her teeth at the pain. She looked away and out to the water in their private space. "Then do what you feel you need to do Fang. I accept my fate for what I've done."

"Fuck you!" Fang raged, picking the pinkette back up and pushing her against the stone wall. She ignored the pained cry that tore from the pinkette's lips. "You fucking martyr. You think it's going to be that simple? You think you've got your profile on me down pat? That I can just put a gun to your head and call it justice? Pull the trigger and leave you bleeding out in the cavern and what, I go get a beer? Fuck you!"

The tears fell freely now, for both of them. Lightning didn't expect it to hurt this much. Neither did Fang.

"I backed you Lightning. Palazzo. Farron. Whatever the fuck your name is. I backed you. I fought for you. I literally took a bullet for you. I fucking fell in love with you!"

They stared at each other in shock for a few moments, breathing hard. Fang had not meant to say the last part out loud and make her feelings heard. Lightning dipped her head and closed her eyes, tears falling to the dirt below. Fang suddenly let her go and stepped back.

"Take your family and your Psicom mate and leave. Consider the blood debt repaid. If I ever see you in the Warrens again, I'll kill you myself." The Pulsian snapped and turned to walk out.


Fang was certain she had misheard and whirled around with a dangerous glare. "You wanna try again?"

Lightning steeled herself against the fury in those jade eyes. "You heard me. No. I don't want to leave. I want to stay."

Fang grabbed her by the collar and pushed her against a nearby rock wall. "And you get to make that choice how exactly? Haven't you done enough? What more could you possibly take from me?" The Pulsian shoved aggressively and Lightning cried out as her spine repeatedly hit the rough stone. She tried to push Fang off her only to have her arms pinned by her head from the raging brunette.

"You've gotten what you came for Claire, go home to Bodhum with your sister and leave me be."

"No." Lightning's continued defiance was causing Fang far more anguish than she anticipated. Her heart ached at the betrayal and she tensed her fingers further around the pinkette's arms.

"What more could you possibly stick around for?" She said with a pained voice.

"You! I am sticking around for you!" Lightning hissed, still struggling against Fang's iron grip.

"Why would you even-" Fang's accusation died in her throat when Lightning used all her strength to push off the wall, as she crashed into Fang and kissed her aggressively. At first, Fang was too shocked to do anything, but then instinct took hold and she gave in to her desires. Gone were hands around her wrists and instead were threading them through the pinkette's pale hair, pulling tightly.

Their lips practically bruised as they met, attempting to dominate one another. Fang bit at Lightning's bottom lip roughly, eliciting a groan from the pale woman. She tasted exquisite. The kiss was angry. The passion relentless. The sounds tinged with hurt. Lightning was ignoring her injuries, her ribs protesting with a fire that caused her to finally pull back, breathless.

"I'm sticking around for you, asshole." She panted, desperately trying to catch her breath. Her jaw burned and she ran her tongue along her lip, tasting blood. Whether that was from Fang striking her face or biting her lip, she couldn't tell.

They stared at each other for what felt like an eternity, as Fang's features moved through many emotions while her chest heaved. She stood and held out a trembling hand to help Lightning up.

"I never gave them anything, Fang. I never ID'd Vanille. No incriminating information, no evidence beyond anything to gain more intel about the other gangs so we could take them down. Look at me. Look at my face, look at the sick joke of my rank now carved into my arm. They did this because I refused to betray you."

The Pulsian felt guilt surge through her even though she realised that Lightning was an officer of the law. She was brutally tortured because of her. Lightning limped forward so she could close the distance between them and took a hold of the Pulsian's face with her damaged hands.

"I may be from the GC; I may have started here under false pretences but I believe in your morals, your message, and in NORA. I fell for the mission. I.. fell for you."

"Wha.." Fang was awe struck at the woman. Her mind struggled with her feelings for the pinkette verses the knowledge that she was the enemy. She narrowed her eyes and studied the earnest expression on the pale and battered face before her. "You… You really mean that?"

Lightning nodded and looked at her with tear filled eyes. "On the honour of my father's strength, on the honour of my mother's wisdom and the honour of my own path through the wilds. I fell in love with you too." She replied, and Fang's eyes widened. The creed of the Hunter's Way, an oath that was unbreakable and as ancient as the clan itself.

"You... That's the initiate oath for the Hunter's Way, to swear fealty to the creed and clan. You... Do realise what it means to say that, right?"

"I wouldn't have said it if I didn't."

It meant that she was willingly giving herself to NORA, and willingly giving everything to Fang. The brunette gently took Lightning by the chin and lifted her head, kissing her again. This time it was gentle, tentative, exploring. Almost pleading in her need to believe the pinkette.

"Fang I... Want to stay with you. Please. Let me be yours."

At Lightning's last words the Pulsian pushed her back against the nearest wall and kissed her passionately. It was still desperate but lacked the aggression from earlier. Despite the pain of the impact, Lightning whimpered with pleasure and let her arms make their way around Fang's neck. She returned the Pulsian's intensity, licking along her lips to gain entrance. The brunette moaned into her mouth, causing lust to settle in the pit of her stomach.

"Claire... I..." Fang's words were silenced by a finger over her lips.

"I wasn't lying when I said I never liked my own name. Please. I prefer Lightning."

Fang smiled into her lips as they kissed again, before Lightning pulled back a little, nuzzling the tanned face with her nose. "Besides. Don't look at me like I'm a cop. I think Rygdea and I got fired last week." Fang couldn't help but laugh.

"So you... Mean it? You really want to stay?"

"What would I do? Even if circumstances between us were different, I couldn't go back to the GC, to Psicom, who have Fal'Cie at every level. Regardless of my feelings for you, I'd still be asking to stay and fight."

Fang warmed at her words, feeling her stomach doing tiny flips at the thought her feelings were returned. She cradled Lightning's jaw gently in her hands and ran a thumb along the angry welt that was appearing on her skin.

"Gods Light... I'm so sorry I..." her apology was cut off by lips pressing against her own, her words swallowed in the wake of affection.

Lightning leant in close and ran her hands up the tanned spine, "In the grand scheme of things it's the least I deserve. You have every right to hate me Fang, but please, don't make me leave you."

The Pulsian took a deep breath and held it for a moment, as she studied the pinkette's shy gaze. "I'm… I'm not going to lie Light, it hurts. It hurts a damn lot. But I want to work past the hurt. I want you. You're an amazing tactician, a skilled fighter and someone I want as a partner in every sense. I'm still upset with you for lying to me like this but… I love you. I don't want you to leave."

Lightning wrapped her arms around Fang's neck and pulled her in for another deep kiss. "I wasn't lying about how I feel about you, Fang. I… I can't fake that."

The brunette pulled back, putting her arms around the shorter woman and helped her from the caverns. "Come on Light, let's get you back to bed for now, the doctor is probably going to have a fit with you running off like that."

Lightning pressed into the warmth as she limped along. "Fang, I'm... I'm sorry for hurting you. I never..."

"Sshhh," the Pulsian silenced her gently, and ran a hand through the pink hair. "I know. You may have been wearing a mask, but I've always seen your heart. I know." Fang didn't realise a tear had slipped down her cheek, and she exhaled with a ragged breath. "I should have known. I've been screwed over by the people I care about too many times in my life to count, I just thought you were going to add to the tally. I'm sorry, for hurting you as well." She helped the pinkette back into bed and looked her over. The injuries were extensive, and no less horrifying when she wasn't covered in blood.

Lightning reached out, running her hand along the back of Fang's neck and dragged her down onto the bed. The brunette yelped just before her lips were pulled against Lightning's. "Shouldn't... You be... Resting..." she gasped between kisses.

"Shut up."


The two broke apart at the sound of her name, to find the younger Farron standing in the doorway with a wide-eyed expression. Lightning hid in the crook of Fang's neck and groaned quietly when she realised she'd been caught in a compromising position. The Pulsian looked at the small pinkette glaring at her with the same fire she often saw in her companion.

Sisters... She thought with a wince.

"Listen I uh, while this conversation isn't over," a disdainful snort from the younger Farron interjected from behind her, "I think you two probably have a lot to talk about at this point so I'm... Gonna... Go. I'll come check on you a bit later."

Lightning nodded and reluctantly untangled herself from Fang. The brunette stole one last kiss on her temple before retreating from the likely hostile confrontation the two were about to have.

"Bloody sisters..." she muttered to herself as she closed the door behind her. The young Farron turned to her sister and stared for a few moments, mulling over her words in her head.

"… Well, at least she hasn't shot you, which honestly was what I was expecting to walk in here to find. She seems nice for a wanted murderous criminal." Serah huffed with a hand on her hip.

Lightning folded her arms across her chest and scowled. "Serah it's not like tha-"

"Oh no you don't sis. You have railed against me for years about Snow when he has been nothing but kind and giving and trustworthy and.. And good to me! Yet here I am, once more getting dragged into YOUR mess from YOUR job..." Tears pricked at her eyes as she raged against her sister. Serah barely drew breath as she got into her sibling's space. "And the most you can say in your defence is that it's not like that? Are you kidding me? After everything that's happened? To you? Really?"

Lightning lay there, dumbfounded. She had never seen her sister so angry and upset before. She couldn't blame her. This whole thing was a mess. "Serah I'm... Sorry. This whole thing got out of hand in a hurry."


Lightning leant forward and wrapped her sister in a hug before Serah could vocalise any further complaints. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. For everything. For you getting involved, for not being able to protect you, for... Leaving you back at the Psicom facility... For not keeping my promise to you.." Her voice cracked on the last one as she held her younger sister tight, desperately trying not to shake.

Any anger Serah could have mustered vanished in the realization that this was the most emotion she'd seen from her sibling since their parents had died. She held onto Lightning tight as her sister cried. Years of suppressed emotion roiling through the gates long locked. They stayed there for a while, just holding each other until the elder Farron had regained composure.

"It's so much bigger than anything I could have anticipated. The corruption... The greed... I know it doesn't seem like it Serah but Fang and NORA... They're the good guys here. Not always the most ethical but... Compared to what we have found out about Psicom and the Fal'Cie, they're the better option."

Serah gripped her sister's shoulder and narrowed her eyes.

"Is this another ruse or survival mechanism to get close to her?" Serah was no cynic but she wasn't about to just accept what she saw at face value.

The question caught Lightning off guard. Her mind flashed back over the last few months, how they had gotten closer, how despite all the reports written about the notorious criminal they paled in comparison, depth and accuracy from being with the woman in person. "No." She whispered and shook her head.

"So what I walked in on earlier the real deal? Do you love her?" Serah asked, staring straight at her sister until her eyes were met.

"I... Yes." Lightning finally admitted while staring intently at the ground.

Serah looked up at her sister with a curious expression. "Tell me about her."

"She's very selfless, puts others first before herself... Has a strong sense of family too. Poetic at times, which surprised me. Likes her coffee with cream and sugar which is gross. She's very thoughtful. Beautiful. Um. I said that last part out loud didn't I."

Serah was smirking now, and gave her sister a squeeze. "I think we can come to a firm conclusion that you have some strong feelings for her sis. I might not completely understand it, but I am with you always."

"Thank you Serah," Lightning replied, hugging her sister tight, "that goes for you as well. Snow is a complete lummox, but he is your lummox so, you can deal with him."

The two Farron siblings laughed for what felt like the first time in years, Serah keeping close and not letting go of Lightning's hand.

Once Lightning was released from the infirmary a few days later, the group sat in the boardroom to debrief and plan their next move. Yuna joined Rikku, Paine and Vanille down one end, Gadot and Lebreau sat with Serah and Snow down the other. That left Fang in the middle, with Lightning close beside her. Since their sudden escalation in their relationship neither had wanted to leave the other's side. If Fang wasn't out dealing with business in the Warrens, she had been with Lightning in the infirmary, healing both of their emotional wounds while Lightning also healed from her physical injuries.

Rygdea sat opposite them with Hope and his father, trying desperately not to fidget.

"Ok. So here's the lay of the land. Psicom and the Fal'cie appear to be working together. For those who aren't aware, Vanille got caught out after a…. problem at work with her arsehole Fal'Cie backed bosses so she'll be with us for the foreseeable future. This jovial looking arsehole across from me is Rygdea, also ex Psicom. The two wound up in Fal'cie crosshairs when they hacked a hard drive Lightning had recovered from the bank job. Goes all the way to the top. Heads of major corporations, government channels and even Psicom are in the Fal'Cie's pockets. This brings me to my next point," She paused, moving closer to Lightning and taking her hand, causing the pinkette to blush.

"Lightning here is actually better known as Lieutenant Claire Farron from the Bodhum Guardian Corps. She was a plant from Psicom to try to find Titan. She didn't exactly anticipate a prison break in her project but I like to think she's... Flexible." She finished with a smirk. The table was silent, equal parts shocked and reluctantly waiting for the response of those who were learning of this for the first time.

"Called it. Rikku, I want my five bucks back." Paine drawled from the end of the table, breaking both the silence and the tension.

"Wait, you knew she was GC?" Gadot asked with growing suspicion. Fang shook her head in response.

"No. That information was only... Recently introduced. But she has proven herself beyond the call, and she is loyal to us, not those bastards at Psicom." She squeezed Lightning's hand and nodded towards her.

"Fang is right. Psicom may have had me infiltrate NORA to find out Titan's location. What I found instead was community, loyalty, and a family." She looked towards Serah at the last statement, seeing the thin lips and furrowed brow on her face.

"She has risked her life for you Gadot. She's also risked her life for my sister, and for me. She is NORA through and through. She is ours. Our Lightning." Fang leant in close and whispered in the pinkette's ear, "My Lightning..." Causing a shiver to travel down the pale skin.

Sazh folded his arms and huffed. "Well you have been helping me try to find Dajh... I still don't appreciate the tail though!"

Gadot looked at them both and shrugged. "Eh, that's enough for me. If she's NORA then I'm good."

"No." Lightning said firmly, causing all eyes to fix on her.

"I am not NORA. Neither are any of you. No obligations, rules or authority? We have obligations to each other, to the Warrens that shelter us, to the people of Eden that are being oppressed by Psicom and the Fal'Cie. We have rules that keep us and the community safe and prosperous. We are the authority. I think it's time we move past NORA. We need to be more. I know we can be more and that's why I stayed. We have done more for the people than the corrupt government and police force ever could. We all come from backgrounds that have experienced loss, hardship, poverty and oppression. We don't want that for ourselves, nor should we allow it for anyone else. It's time we show these pricks who runs this city, and it sure as shit isn't them."

The atmosphere was electric. Fang marvelled at how Lightning seemed to be able to command the room, rally the troops as it were, even in her bruised and wounded state. The brunette smiled at everyone. "Rygdea, Hope, Serah, Snow. You are welcome to stay if you wish. But Lightning is right. The days of messing about are done. We're going after the Fal'Cie and Psicom. We're going to mess shit up and shut them down. Permanently."

Hope nodded as he glanced at his father and stood up. "You saved my life and kept us safe. They took my mother from us. I am in. I will fight."

Rygdea looked around at everyone and shrugged. "Well, I got nothing better to do anyway."

Snow and Serah looked at each other and then over to the elder Farron. "We aren't really sure what's going on but we're with you, sis." He said.

"OK. Let's get planning then."

They worked long into the night until everyone began retreating to their beds. That left Fang and Lightning alone in the boardroom amongst piles of papers, folders and maps. The Pulsian looked over as Lightning tucked a wayward strand of hair behind her ear while plotting out existing gang territories.

"So, why'd you do it?"

The pinkette paused from her analysis and glanced at Fang with a quizzical expression. "Do what?"

"All of it. Following me, staying with me... I guess I'm just trying to figure out your motivations now that the whole Cat Sith's out of the jar you know?" Lightning sighed and stretched. She had been waiting for this line of questioning for a few hours now. At least this time they could talk without the overcharged emotions.

"I guess... At first, it was because of duty. They threw me into this ridiculous situation where I'm meant to get close to you in a hostile environment...I figured it would be safer to just be myself, less chance of screwing up. Nabaat certainly didn't like me going off her carefully crafted profile." Fang couldn't help but laugh about that. She thought back to how fascinated she was with the pinkette, how the aloofness and ice cold stares merely drew her to the woman, just to see if she could be melted.

"Wait, that Lettie bird, that was meant to be your script? Etro Light, how did Nabaat get to commander when she is that stupid?"

Lightning chuckled and rubbed at her injured shoulder. "When the break out happened, I either had to choose between failure and letting you go or going with you and at least being able to track your movements."

"I see," Fang said through pursed lips. She had always prided herself on her ability to spot a rat from a mile away. There was a part of her that was unsettled by Lightning's proficiency of getting so close in such a short amount of time.

"I enjoyed your company though. The more time we spent together the harder it was to maintain the view of you that Psicom had in their reports. You weren't anything like they said." She blushed a little as she stepped closer to the Pulsian.

"Are you sure it isn't just a by-product of stress and you're really just capture bonding?" Fang asked sarcastically. Lightning shook her head and reached out to run a hand through the wild locks before her. She smiled as Fang murmured in contentment with the gesture. The Pulsian's lips curved up into a grin as her tanned fingers started toying with Lightning's waist.

"I was getting to see the real you. And it became hard when I couldn't show you the real me. Until I realised that I had been showing you all along. Lightning. I really do like the name." She said with a smile, pausing from her explanation as Fang distracted her with a slow, deep kiss. Lightning nuzzled her face and pressed their foreheads together.

"Then with what we were accomplishing, it was… intoxicating. To have power with no recourse, to have the ability to just get things done without the usual red tape that bound me. I was growing too attached to my position, and to you," She chuckled and leant back against the desk, "Maybe it was capture bonding. I think I liked letting go too much."

Fang leant in close, not letting her put any distance between them. "I think I liked you letting go too." She breathed, kissing along the pale neck before her. Lightning smacked Fang on the arm and nudged her away before she lost any further control. She laughed at the brunette's pout and ran a hand through her hair again.

"I felt guilty. About lying to you. It would only be a matter of time before it all hit the fan… When Vanille got caught up in it from that hard drive I felt even worse. I would never have given anything up to Jihl, even if she killed me. I had even accepted the possibility of being left behind after I broke everyone out. I guess I wanted my death to be a poor attempt at an apology for my deception if it meant you got out safe with your sister." She hung her head and stared at the floor. Tanned fingers guided her by the chin back up to meet jade eyes that pierced through her.

"I would never have accepted your death in and of itself, let alone as a pretty bloody terrible apology. I would have gone through Etro's gate itself to get you back so I could smack you about the head myself!" Lightning smiled at the Pulsian's determination. Fang leant down and kissed her passionately, pulling the pinkette close and refusing to let her go.

"I had my moment to be angry about what you did. But the thing is, when I stopped to think about it... You may have had a profile, a certain script to follow, but all I am seeing, and all I have ever seen is you. I mean look at it. Is any of what you've told me about yourself a lie? Was your dad in the GC? Did you get booted out of the academy? Your history with the Valefor gang, was any of it a lie?"

Lightning paused for a moment, before shaking her head. "No. I ran with the gang in my teens before dad died. I was booted from the academy for disobeying a superior. Only captain Amodar managed to get me back in because he fought for me."

"So if just about everything was true... Maybe the lieutenant was the mask and the real you is here with me where you're meant to be. Especially if you've had a past with a gang. Could also be why I didn't peg you for a viper? Ever think about that?"

Lightning rubbed her temples and frowned. "It is far too late in the evening to be thinking about such existential things. I think I need to sleep." Fang smiled and took her by the hand, leading her up the stairs to her room. They fell into bed together and tangled themselves up in each other. "You know, I'm glad that I took that assignment," She said quietly. "I never would have met you otherwise."

"Me too, Light. Me too."

Fang brushed the pale hair out of her face and kissed her forehead, drawing circles along her spine until the pinkette finally succumbed to sleep, feeling at peace for the first time in months.

Chapter Text

Fang paused in the doorway to Vanille's newly built room in the barracks. The redhead was curled up on the bed, typing furiously away at her laptop. She looked up at her sister as she entered and gave a tight smile.

"Just looking up the details for you. Managed to crack the profile now that I know where to look." Vanille explained as Fang took a seat next to her. "She… Ironically wasn't lying about much. She was one of the main drug runners for the Valefor gang in her teens, looks like she got into strife with it all after her mother passed."

Fang whistled low and tilted her head as she absorbed the information. "Damn. No wonder she has skills in hot wiring cars and driving like a maniac."

Vanille typed a few more things into her laptop and brought up more information that had previously been redacted. "Psicom did a deal with her before she turned 17 to wipe her record in exchange for evidence and a protected testimony. She wound up with a scholarship to the Guardian Corps Academy as a part of the deal so she could keep her sister out of the foster system. Her father was in the GC, he… Oh wow…"

"What? What is it?" Fang leant over her shoulder, peering at the screen. Vanille shook her head and turned to face her sister.

"It looks like her dad tried to bail her out, went after her into the Valefor compound. He..." The redhead swallowed hard as she read the report ahead, trying to form words.

"He died in the resounding shootout with the gang, trying to pull me out of the building after I'd ran off." Lightning's voice called out from the doorway, and both Oerban siblings jumped. Both looked sheepish as the pinkette stared them down, arms folded and staring pointedly. She ducked her head with a sigh and turned to leave, boots tapping down the hallway. Fang and Vanille looked at each other as the brunette scratched at the back of her neck.

"I should… Probably go after her."

Vanille shrugged and went back to her laptop. Fang sensed there was a longer conversation that needed to be had between the two of them, but right now she needed to go find Lightning. She ran out of the room and almost tripped over the woman in question, who had been leaning against the wall just outside the door, eyes closed. They drifted open and gazed at the Pulsian standing in front of her.

"I suppose it's only fair all things considered. Not exactly like I'm in a position to be annoyed." Lightning sighed, looking away down the hall. Fang ground her teeth, anger flaring in her gut. She suppressed it as quickly as it came. Being angry was not going to heal the wounds between them.

"I... You know how it looks Light. I wanted to be sure."

The pinkette's jaw clenched and she felt a few tears sting at her eyes. "I deserved that." She stayed quiet for a few moments before a slow exhale left her lips. "My father and I… We had an argument when he found me carrying for Auron, the boss. I ran away to the compound. He came and found me, and tried to get me out. I wouldn't listen, and we were spotted by the gang. There was a shootout... He..." Lightning trailed off as she felt a tear slip down her cheek. "He died, because of me. I've been trying to atone for it ever since."

Fang didn't have a response to that, and chose to just pull Lightning into a tight hug. "I'm sorry, Light."

The pinkette sniffed and looked up into the piercing jade eyes and smiled. "I did get kicked out of the academy though, Vanille was probably about to get to that part when I walked in on you both. My Captain managed to get me reinstated after an investigation. The trainer kept trying to put the moves on and wouldn't take no for an answer. She attempted to get physical, so I broke her nose."

Fang chuckled and kissed the top of her head. "So when you were saying you had kissed a woman before..."

"Yours was better." Lightning leant up and reminded herself, pressing closer into her and tasting the Pulsian's lips. Despite everything that had happened recently, she still felt safe in Fang's arms. She snuggled in against her chest and smiled as she heard a peaceful hum reverberate through the brunette's chest.

A crash from the bedroom behind them startled them both, and Vanille came rushing out of the room. Rapid footsteps raced towards them, and the redhead nearly crashed into the two as she rounded the corner.

"Gah! Why are you two just standing out here? Lightning, you were who I was looking for anyway." She nattered away, pulling up an image on her phone. Lightning's eyebrows raised as the device was shoved into her face. She saw the familiar face of the trainer she had just been telling Fang about.

"Speak of the devil... What's this about?"

Vanille zoomed in on her face as she spoke. "Gillian Suriya right?"

"I doubt her nose is that straight these days but sure." Lightning replied with a shrug, Fang leaning over with a look of disgust when she realised the image was of the woman who had accosted the pinkette while in training.

"Yeah well... Look familiar?"

When the short blonde bob was taken out of the equation and her nose hidden by Vanille's thumb, the resemblance was not coincidental.

"You're fucking kidding me... That's Nabaat!"

Fang sucked air through her teeth and held the pinkette close. "Etro, no bloody wonder she's had it in for you love. Fal'Cie must have done a number on her record and her face to get her back in the force."

Just one more reason to kill the corrupted commander, added to the ever-growing list. Lightning growled low in her throat.

"No wonder she was against me being assigned to the op, and why she kept trying to undermine me at every turn. No wonder she was so... Violent..." She held her hand over her injured shoulder, where the two stitched up wounds were still healing. She inhaled deeply and looked at the young redhead. "Thank you for telling me Vanille. I'm sorry that you've been put in this position with your career. It isn't fair that you got caught in the crossfire."

The redhead looked pleased with the acknowledgement and grinned. "Don't fret Light, from what Rygdea and I found on that hard drive it sounds like I've been working for the Fal'Cie by accident for some time now. That fact is way more horrifying than the poop that failsafe put me in."

Vanille skipped off and left the two alone once more. Fang gave Lightning a once over and kissed her temple. "So, Tifa is back in town, and some of the girls are looking to blow off some steam..."

Lightning shrugged and began to walk down the hall, still limping slightly with her busted toes still on the mend. "Not really in much of a partying mood lately Fang."

"I was more talking about picking up where we left off with that Behemoth King farm we were going to hit and burn to the ground. If you... Want I mean..."

Lightning paused, her brow furrowing. She was being given an option. It made her feel unsettled. She didn't have to hide who she was anymore, Fang knew about her history with the GC, and still asked her along. But she was also being given an out in case she lacked the stomach for it. She never had an issue with doing these kinds of things when she ran for the Valefor gang as a kid, nor did she really take an issue while undercover with NORA.

What did it mean now that she wasn't shackled by Psicom? She was already operating outside the law while undercover. What would change now that she is staying willingly with Fang and NORA? What expectations would be placed on her in terms of how she should or shouldn't act now that everything is out in the open?

She turned to Fang with a sigh and bumped her with her hip.

"Let's go."

"Etro's fucking Gate why did I think it was a good idea to leave Rikku and Vanille alone together..." Fang groaned while the two skipped along behind them, chattering endlessly at a fast pace. Rikku and Vanille both shaded an affinity for engineering and schemes, both of which were a dangerous combination as far as those two were concerned. Paine shook her head and put her hands behind her head, stretching out her arms.

"Dunno boss, kinda nice to have someone to keep up with her. Gives me a damn break." The silver haired woman muttered and yelped as she felt a smack on her rear.

"Come on Dr P, don't tell me you don't have the energy to keep up with me!"

Paine glared at the blonde and narrowed her eyes. "Minus five respect points Rikku."


Lightning chuckled from alongside of Fang, feeling a little lighter than she had in a while. She cast an apologetic glance towards the silver-haired woman and bowed her head as they walked. "Paine, I… I wanted to apologise for the deception. It wasn't my intent-"

"Yeah it was. That was the whole reason you were here in the first place, wasn't it?" Paine cut in abruptly. Lightning felt Fang tense next to her, either through preparation to leap to her defence or because she was reminded of recent events, was anyone's guess. "That being said," Paine continued, red irises moving over the two next to her, "You could have left us for dead plenty of times over. I may have been right in my accusation before the shipping yard, but I was also right in what I said to Rikku afterwards. No cop would look at a criminal like Fang the way you'd been looking at her."

Fang's eyebrows raised and she looked over at the blushing pinkette. "That long huh?" She queried, and Lightning just hummed in response, staring straight ahead.

"I think you quit the force long before you even realised it, Light. Either way, it's good to have you sticking around. I've grown fond of you and the less explosive moods the boss is in when you're with her." Paine said with a shrug, moving ahead to wave down Tifa, who was sitting on the hood of her car in a nearby car park. The long-haired brunette popped the boot of her car and revealed what she referred to as "party favours" for the Behemoth Kings. Paine whistled low as the others approached, and even Vanille took a moment to look impressed.

"Are those what I think they are?" The redhead queried, and Tifa nodded excitedly.

"Figured my triumphant return to Eden warranted a bit of… Flair. Chemical bombs, not high impact radius, but still flammable as all hell, and they will absolutely annihilate the echo grass, along with the soil. They won't be able to grow anything here for at least a year. We just need to set them up at various points around the farm, and then detonate them remotely."

Fang frowned at the concept, not anywhere near as much fireworks and violence as she was aiming for, but then again considering everything they'd all been through recently, maybe it was for the best.

Fang kept trying to catch Lightning's eyes but she seemed a little withdrawn. "Hey, Light," she said quietly, reaching for her hand, "If you don't… You know, feel comfortable with this, nobody is forcing you." She wasn't prepared for the wall of ice that met her in response from the former-officer.

"If I said I was in this for the long haul I meant it." She snapped, her demeanour suddenly aggressive. Her fists balled and she stormed ahead, leaving a confused Fang in her wake. The Pulsian regarded her partner with a hard swallow, watching the keen focus she was giving the map as the pinkette was doling out directions. They had each taken a device, and split up into the fields.

"There will likely be some arsehole BK's hanging around, Vanille is hanging back by the car checking for any cell activity in the area." Fang murmured into her comms device, fidgeting with the bomb in her hands. She drew her pistol with another free hand, and darted off into the long stalks from the echo grass. She came across a couple of them milling about the fields, and made quick work of them before they had time to even register her presence.

"Rikku and Tifa have their devices dropped, I'm just putting mine down now. Move it. I wanna see this place burn while I blaze, then we can go get a beer back at HQ while the buzz is still good." Paine called down the line of their communicators, and Fang nodded quietly to herself. She dropped the device in the designated spot and raced back through the stalks, pausing as she heard low voices amidst the grass.

"What if we get caught?"

"Shut up and we won't. Most of the Behemoth Kings are at some huge meeting, so we're good for the next few hours."

"You're fucking kidding me." Fang groaned as she spied two high school kids cutting away stalks of echo grass and stuffing them into their backpacks. She burst through the grass with her gun drawn, and two young males shrieked. "I don't know, you may be safe from the Behemoth Kings but you're sure as hell not safe from me, or the explosion that's about to be enveloping this place in the next couple of minutes."

"Holy shit! You're Yun Fang! The NORA gang leader! Holy shit!"

"Holy shit is right," Fang barked, annoyed at the interruption to her day. "You two need to get the fuck out of here, we are literally burning this field to the ground."

The youths looked at each other and gave a coy, sheepish expression to the glowering Pulsian. "Can… Can we at least stick around and watch?"

"Ugh… Fine…" Fang sighed, picking them both up by the collar and dragging them with her. She emerged from the field with the two in tow, bringing a variety of confused and amused looks all round.

"Friends of yours, Fang?" Paine asked with a quirk of her lips.

"Oh fuck off Paine," the Pulsian growled, pushing the kids forward and away from her. "Found them in the field. Didn't want them to end up as collateral damage."

Lightning eyed them over and rolled her eyes, walking away from the group as Tifa hit the detonator, sending the field up in flames. Fang chased after her, leaving the others to observe the destruction.

"Wait, hey! Fuck would you slow down already?" Fang yelled after her, leaping forward and yanking Lightning back by the wrist. She pulled the pinkette into her and wrapped her arms around her as the shorter woman struggled. "I'm not… Trying… For fuck's sake would you just hit the pause button for five seconds? Please?"

Her imploring tone caused Lightning to still her movements, though an angry expression remained on her face as she refused to meet Fang's gaze.

"I'm not.. I wasn't trying to second guess you before love. I just… How much of the illicit shit that you did with us was because you wanted to, or because it was part of your job to play the part while undercover?"

She watched Lightning's jaw tighten and her blink rapidly, fighting back tears.


"I don't know. And I don't know which is worse." The pinkette whispered, barely audible with the cracking in her voice. Fang stroked her hair and held her head against her chest.

"I'm just… Etro this is hard… I want you to be here because it's something you actually want to do, not because you feel the need to prove yourself all over again. You've done more than enough Sunshine. Nobody would fault you if you didn't want to, you know… Take part in proceedings."

Lightning pushed back from Fang and took a few steps away, folding her arms defensively. She exhaled forcefully and counted in her head to keep calm. "It'd be one thing if we were blowing up a hospital, or robbing a bank that wasn't backed by a gang, but we're not. We're taking out the Fal'Cie. Whether I'm behind the desk pushing paperwork in the GC or here with you, burning down a BK's farm is irrelevant. A target's a target and I am here to get the job done."

Fang flinched at the almost militant response that came from the ex-GC lieutenant, and bit her lip with worry. Maybe it was too soon for her to be out and about after everything that had happened. It sounded like she was out for blood.

"Ok… Ok.." The brunette said uneasily, gently placing her hands on tense shoulders and squeezing. "I'm not trying to talk you out of anything, sweetheart. I would be beyond thrilled to have you by my side setting fire to this fucking field and anything else with a Fal'Cie stamp on it. You know that I would be." She quietly moved around and tilted Lightning's jaw up so that she could finally meet her eyes. "Just… Don't rush head long into things because of some desire for revenge or to prove something to me or yourself or the others or… Whatever. You know? I've lost too many people to count because of it."

Finally, the words sunk in and Lightning's shoulders slumped. "I know. I know. You're right. At first I didn't care because I was given immunity from prosecution for anything I did while undercover.. Now that I'm out though, it feels... More real. Like old times, when I ran with Auron and his gang. Which means very real consequences if anything goes south or if we're caught."

"Ah. I see," Fang hummed, wheels turning over in her head. "Somewhere deep down you still felt like you were playing a role, but now you're not and it's making you a little edgy because you're not a cop anymore. It's no longer about the things you're doing for the sake of maintaining cover." The Pulsian surmised, it didn't seem like Lightning was quite finished working through her identity crisis just yet.

"When it came down to the wire, like when you'd been shot, none of that mattered. It became about survival. For you, for us.." The pinkette said, and Fang leant down to kiss Lightning gently, interrupting her musings.

"And that's what it is Sunshine, survival. You know we operate by the Hunter's Way here. No civilians harmed. No law enforcement death. Maintain the balance. You know I'd never ask you to do anything that violated those tenants. And we're an open forum here. Furthermore, you're my partner. I love you. If something doesn't sit right with you, tell me and we'll talk about it. Ok?"

Lightning pressed into Fang's chest, the brunette resting her chin on top of her head. They stood close as they watched the field burn from a distance, the fire casting an orange glow on the early evening sky.

"Those kids said that the BK's were at some huge meeting, which was why we managed to get away clean." Fang said with a frown, contemplative as she lay in bed with Lightning later that evening. The pinkette was busy investing her time exploring the tanned abdomen under her fingertips and hummed.

"You think we should be investigating? I'd dare say it'd have everything to do with recent events and Fal'Cie movements." She replied, watching the rise and fall of Fang's chest.

"Maybe." The Pulsian grumbled, trying to keep the conversation on target but failing under the attention she was being given. Lightning sat up and moved on top of her, straddling her waist. She leant down, to plant small kisses down Fang's jaw line and smiled. The brunette started massaging along Lightning's spine, and the woman collapsed against her.

"Goddess... You can not stop that. Ever." She murmured into Fang's neck.

"So what do you think? Should we check out what this meeting was about?"

"No talking about work while you're doing that." The muffled complaint came from against Fang's neck and she chuckled. Pausing in her movements so that she could get some attention on the subject, Lightning tilted her head up to scowl at her companion.

"...Tch... Fine... Our options at the moment. Vanille still has access to Psicom's databases for now, and has been working with Hope to strip them in case her back door is discovered and cut off. None of us know how deep the Fal'Cie have infiltrated the levels, so I can't be sure that I can trust the Captain or Director Raines. Though Rygdea is trying to set up a meeting with Amodar in a safe place to try to find out what's going on at the other end." Lightning summarised while playing with Fang's exposed belly button. She delighted in how the Pulsian squirmed, obviously ticklish.

"I've been working with Bartholomew to inject some capital into a few projects outside the Warrens, to help him keep a foothold in Eden and Yu Yevon out of the city... In exchange for some... Cooperation with some of the underground construction here." Fang replied, gasping as Lightning continued to drag her fingers along her skin, occasionally dipping along the waistline of her jeans in a teasing fashion.

Lightning nodded and thought about the recent projects. The construction efforts around the HQ hadn't gone unnoticed. A few apartments had been springing up down by the barracks for some of the inner circle that would need to stay closer to base, as well as a home for Bartholomew and Hope while they were in hiding. They were able to utilise the old structures in the wider area, just reinforced them and renovated until they resembled homes.

Some of the freed trafficking victims had taken up residency together, and it brought a smile to Fang's face, reminding her of her community in Oerba back when she was growing up. She shook herself from her musings as Lightning was drawing patterns over the tattoos on her torso and continued.

"Paine and Rikku have been working on the distribution of our echo grass, and it's severely disrupted the BK's trade. Probably why the meeting is taking place. The Seraphim are down and out for the count with their trafficking coming to a screeching halt and Lulu coming back on board with her clubs. The Children of Etro are scrambling after their cash flow was destroyed, and Noel has been running around picking off the hierachy. I say we kick them while they're down so they stay down." Fang explained while tangling her fingers into the pale hair, scratching gently at Lightning's scalp.

The pinkette hummed with contentment, relishing the attention and the quiet. It was the first time they had managed to just be able to just lay together without the weight of expectation, her dual role, the pressure or getting into other... Recreational activities. It was nice, Lightning found, to just lay with Fang and feel protected, and safe. "What happens after that? If the gangs are taken out, what then?" she asked, looking back up at the brunette.

"Then we expose the Fal'Cie for what they really are, and take out anyone in public office that's affiliated with them. After that... Who knows. You know," Fang paused, chuckling to herself a little, "I got into this game because I wanted to provide for my family and friends, fight back after seeing what the gangs in Gran Pulse had done to my community back in Oerba. Somewhere along the line I think… I lost sight of that."

Lightning looked thoughtful and pressed her head into Fang's shoulder. "I don't know if you have. With everything we've uncovered, everything we've done for the Warrens... I don't remember the last time where I felt like a police officer, but I doubt you've really felt like a criminal with all the heroics lately either. We're not really in the same realm as the other gangs at this point, and you certainly no longer fit the bill of a criminal leader in the eyes of the Fal'Cie from what Yaag said before he… Met his demise."

The Pulsian's eyebrows rose and she regarded a sly smirk beginning to form on Lightning's face. "Aye? If not that, then what?"

The smile widened and Lightning looked determined as she leant forward to brush her lips against Fang's ear. "What they call you. A world ender." The brunette's breath caught in her throat at the words, and Lightning paused to bite the edge of her ear for good measure.

"A world... Ender... There a reason they feel the need to use Gran Pulse mythology as a descriptor?"

Lightning smiled, determination evident in her gaze. "Probably for dramatic effect to get their point across to the other gangs on how much of a threat you really are. If they're so hell-bent on theatrics and mythology, I say we give it to them, Ragnarok."

Chapter Text

Rygdea stood silently at the docks of Palumpolum, scratching nervously at the back of his head. He couldn't help but fidget from one foot to the other, restless with twitchy energy. Lightning shot him a dangerous glare and he froze, body going rigid under her scrutiny.

"Must you?" She asked, annoyed with his shuffling. He shrugged, and shoved his hands into his pockets to attempt to keep still.

"Sorry Light, I just… This whole thing is such a mess. I've been in Psicom for over a decade, and overnight it turns out the whole hierarchy is crooked, Cid is nowhere to be found, Nabaat is a Fal'Cie enforcer and the head of the whole organisation runs the biggest criminal empire in the world. I'm… Overwhelmed ok?"

Lightning relented in her frustration towards him and softened her expression. "I'm sorry. I know it must be a lot to handle all things considered." She placed a hand on his shoulder and felt the tension there. "I know you didn't ask to be put in this position Rygdea, but while you're here let's try to make the most of it and reclaim our lives."

Her former handler opened his mouth to say something, but his attention was drawn to an approaching sedan rolling down the pier. The car came to a stop and the engine grew silent. The two stood at the ready for whatever was coming, and Lightning realised she was holding her breath.

Captain Amodar got out of the vehicle and gave them both a once over. He pulled his jacket collar about him and walked over. Lightning fell into old habits and saluted him, bringing a wistful smile to his face. "Farron, I hardly think we're at the point of still needing formalities." He said, and pulled her into a hug. To his surprise, she actually returned it, pressing into him. He knew that after everything that had happened, he was the closest thing she had to a father, looking out for her ever since the man had died. He found himself stroking her hair and then holding her back to get a look at her.

Most of the bruising had faded, and the wounds healed up, leaving the remnants in jagged scars across her arms and a thin wicked line along the side of her face. He ran his thumb over the two gouges on her shoulder, a cruel joke from Nabaat that made anger rise from his stomach and bile scratched at his throat.

"I'm so sorry Farron. I never meant for any of this to happen. But I am so glad you're safe." He said quietly. Lightning bowed her head and gave a small huff, and shook her head.

"I hardly think it's your fault. Though the next time you tell me to go for the career opportunity of a lifetime, I think I might tell you to cram it."

Amodar chuckled, pleased that his protégé was able to still hold a sense of humour despite everything. His laughter faded and he stared out at the harbour, jaw clenched. "Even after… You still wound up where we feared you'd land Farron."

"It isn't all bad," Lightning replied with a stern gaze, "you know that the work I've been doing with Fang has-"

"That's not what I meant Claire. I meant the Fal'Cie, hiding in Psicom's ranks. Your dealings with Fang and her crew don't bother me. NORA never has."

Both Rygdea and Lightning were shocked at that admission, and they both stared at each other in confusion. Amodar shrugged.

"While I never told him who you really were, I have my own contacts from the gang from the old days. We keep in touch, have the occasional drink together. NORA always held up the moral high ground, even if Fang was a bit of a loose cannon."

Lightning's eyebrows shot up and she took a step back. "Sazh. Your contact is Sazh Katzroy. No wonder he knew about Rosch's martial law declaration ahead of schedule."

"I barely had time to contact him about it, let alone you. Who knows where the Commissioner is now since his escape." He mused, scratching at his moustache. The pinkette winced, and looked away. Amodar seemed to put the ends together and nodded. "Right. I figured as much. Can't say he didn't deserve it from what we found at the compound."

Lightning looked around at the pier, checking for other people. A part of her was wondering if Fang was hiding amongst the shipping crates, listening in. She'd waved the pinkette off earlier this morning when she'd been invited along as a show of faith, but then still, the lingering doubt remained that she was somewhere nearby.

"So what's this meeting about anyway Amodar? I don't exactly feel comfortable staying out in the open any longer than necessary at the moment." She said impatiently. The captain sucked air through his teeth and handed her a folder-sized envelope.

"Latest intel on the Seraphim gang. Call it a peace offering between myself and Fang. And tell Sazh we're even after this."

An eyebrow raised at the request, and she reluctantly nodded, pocketing the envelope in her jacket. Amodar straightened up and placed a gentle hand on Lightning's good shoulder. "Please be careful. I'm not ready to lose any more Farrons in my lifetime." He spared a tilt of his head to Rygdea and then turned to leave. After the car drove away Rygdea sighed and turned to the pinkette.

"Listen Light, I gotta…"

"I know. Keep in contact at least, with anything you find." She already knew before Amodar had arrived that he was likely going to confess he was leaving. He chanced a brief hug, withdrawing and walking away before he said anything stupid. Lightning watched him leave, feeling strangely sad and relieved at the same time. One less person connected to her GC life meant less reminders, and she could focus on the task at hand.

She made her way slowly back to the carpark to find a very familiar brunette reclined in the passenger seat of her car, window down. "So, you followed me after all." Lightning said, lips thin in disapproval. Fang cracked an eyelid and rolled her gaze over her form, and grinned lazily.

"Sort of. Sazh told me that he had a contact in the GC that could be trusted a while back but told me it was your old captain this morning after you left. So, after I punched him, I figured I'd just make sure you were ok. I watched from a distance to give you privacy, just like you did for me that day you met Vanille." She drawled, deliberately referring to that day she was followed to cut her partner off at the pass.

"I see what you're doing there Fang." Lightning said with a frown, folding her arms defensively.

"When the captain gave you that hug I knew you were fine, and then I decided having a nap in a car where I can smell your scent was a more productive use of my time on this nice weathered day."

Lightning's scowl faded, turning into a soft smile and she leant against the car. Her annoyance evaporated under the warmth of the sun and the peaceful look on Fang's face as she laid back in the vehicle. She felt the envelope in her jacket and pulled it out, drawing a thumb over the print. Fang climbed out of the vehicle and pulled the pinkette against her, warming herself with her body. "You ok?" She asked while gently kissing the back of the pale neck.

"I think so. Rygdea's gone, likely to try to find Cid. I have a bad feeling he's not going to like what he finds though. Either another puppet of the Fal'Cie, or dead. Or both. Amodar has to keep up appearances but… At least we have one friend in the GC we know we can trust."

Fang absorbed the information, and nodded towards the envelope. "Anything of value in there?" She asked curiously and reached for the paper. Lightning scowled and batted her hand away from the documents, pulling out the contents. Her eyebrows shot up as she read it, and looked behind her at the Pulsian from the corner of her eye.

"Yes. Yes there is."

Rikku pawed over the documents and raised an eyebrow at her boss. "Sooo, let me get this straight. This limo is registered to a company, that's a front, owned by the Seraphim, and harbours either the head honcho of the gang himself, or the closest thing to it."

Fang nodded, deferring to Vanille who was once more furiously typing away at her laptop. The redhead picked up a coffee and took a sip, her elder sibling scowling at her caffeine intake. "We don't have enough intel for anything solid but there are suggestions that whoever rides around in that limo is a patsy. A decoy to keep the real head safe. Either way, there's a fifty split on whether we'll target the true leader or the fake, either way we'll be one step closer to our goals."

Lightning was doodling away on a notepad, half-listening, half-scheming. "So let's not kill him outright. Let's focus on capturing. If it's the real deal, we have an end-game and leverage. If not, we have information and it's still leverage."

Leaning over her shoulder to try to sneak a look at whatever the pinkette was scribbling, Fang frowned at the crude map of a nearby highway that was drawn on the paper. She raised her eyebrow, curious at whatever was going through her companion's mind. Lightning turned and kissed her cheek, catching the Pulsian off guard.

"I have a plan. I'm going to need a truck." She said, matter-of-factly with a sly grin. Lightning nodded towards Rikku. "You know where I can get one? I need something very specific." She asked, sliding the notepad over.

The blonde looked it over and flashed a brilliant smile. "If this is what I think it is, I am so filming this." She raced over and dragged Lightning from the room, heading off towards the garage. That left Vanille and Fang in the meeting room together, the elder Oerban staring at the coffee mug across the table in earnest. Vanille had been avoidant over the last few days, and any conversations between the two were stilted, argumentative and ultimately left Fang hurting. She had been apart from her sister for so long, and now that she was finally back again, it felt like it came at the cost of their relationship.

"Hey, 'Nille…" Fang started, suddenly feeling awkward and nervous. "Are… Are we ok?" The redhead sighed at the question, snapping her laptop shut. She leant back in her chair and folded her arms.

"I'm… Not mad at you Fang. I'm mad at the whole situation. We fought so hard since everything went to hell in Oerba, everything that you did to keep me in school so I could go to the academy, and for what? I still wound up living underground hiding away from people trying to kill us. Just like when we were kids."

Fang visibly flinched at the reminder. It wasn't easy growing up on the streets, hiding in underground sewers after escaping the local orphanage, stealing from the local markets to stay fed. Vanille always got more of the food though, courtesy of Fang. The brunette had been taken in with a local gang in order to pay for a roof over their heads, and she had squirrelled enough away to send her younger sister to school. How ironic that after everything they fought for, that the end was the same. More so, that Lightning's life seemed to run so parallel to her own. Though their reasons for joining gangs were different, in the end their destination was the same.

"I'm still sorry regardless, Vanille. I… Never meant for things to go as far as they did, or say the things I said to drive the wedge between us in the first place."

The argument they'd had when Fang found out her younger sibling had joined Psicom shook the windows of their apartment. The brunette had taken it personally, thinking her sister was out to get her. They had parted ways and not spoken for years, reuniting and reconnecting only days before everything hit the fan because the redhead wanted to caution her stubborn sister about what was coming. Fang wound up in prison despite the warning.

"Are you going to apologise continuously forever?" Vanille complained, leaning forward in her seat. "Look, I get it ok? I had a lot of time to think about things while we weren't talking for those couple of years, and again while you were in prison for nearly three. I had my time process things then, just like I did now with everything that's happened. Is this where I thought I'd be? Of course not. But what would have happened if I stayed where I was, unwittingly working for the Fal'Cie?" She stood and moved around the table, propping herself up on the surface next to Fang.

"I'm sorry that I've been taking my anger out on you. It isn't right, and it isn't fair. I may not be where I thought I'd be, but I'm where I need to be. Where I want to be. With my family."

Fang looked up, wide-eyed and tears threatened to make themselves known. She pulled her sibling off the table and into a crushing hug, wrapping an arm around until her hand rested on the crown of Vanille's head. They held each other silently for a time, finally able to be close again after so long apart.

"Lightning seems to be doing you good though. Keeps you grounded." The redhead teased, wiggling her eyebrows. She had to concede that despite her initial suspicions of the pale woman being correct, she had grown to become quite fond of Lightning, and found her to be a wonderful addition to her new family once she'd managed to get underneath the armour. Fang ruffled her hair and scowled.

"That's enough out of you missy!"

Vanille untangled herself from her sibling and stood, allowing herself a moment to stretch. "Come on, let's go see what your girlfriend is up to. The longer she's with Rikku the more explosive the plan is going to get."

"This is insane. You are insane. Have you spent too much time with Rikku? You've spent too much time with Rikku. You've gone mad." Fang's eyes narrowed as she studied her partner, who was in the midst of flexing her fingers repeatedly on the steering wheel as they were parked on the side of a busy street.

"True enough." Lightning replied with a shrug, turning to the brunette and flashing a rare cheeky smile. "But you can't sit there and tell me you're not so excited to filth that you're going to likely ravage me senseless if we manage to pull this off."

"I might do that anyway. You don't know how I operate."

"Yes I do Fang, I studied your profile immensely while in the GC." Lightning sighed in amusement.

"How about you continue to study my profile in-depth later on tonight?"

Lightning opened her mouth to say something, but it snapped shut as her eyebrows rose. "Smooth fucker." She muttered, flexing her fingers against the steering wheel once more.

A beep on the dashboard drew their attention, and Rikku's voice crackled down the speaker of the vehicle. "Yeah so if you two are done with… All that… -by the way turn your damn communicators off- The limo is coming up on you guys in about five minutes. We're all in position, and the truck is down the east highway on ninety-nine ready to roll."

Lightning coughed and switched the radio on for something else to focus on, and Fang rolled her eyes. "Yeah yeah Rikku, I hear ya. We'll let you know when we've got the bastard in the funnel." The brunette replied, then switched the comms off. "So, about that in-depth profiling.."

"Fang, not now." Lightning growled with a glare, and Fang shut up with barely more than a quiet peep. She knew not to mess with the ex-officer when she went into her concentration mode.

The car engine ticked over and the pinkette revved the engine a couple of times for good measure, and then let it idle as the limousine approached. As it passed Lightning gave it a once over, checking for any glaringly obvious weaponry or obstacles and beyond the likely bulletproof armour, couldn't find anything else.

She pulled out of her parking spot and tore down the road, glancing briefly down at Fang's buckle pointedly until the Pulsian got the hint and put her seatbelt on. "Safety first, sweetheart." Lightning teased, adrenaline starting to filter through her system.

As she sped up and got closer to the limousine, she timed how long it would take before the driver in front realised they were being pursued. She saw the familiar jitters start with Fang, that manic grin she'd come to love slowly appearing. Their target suddenly sped off, finally keying onto the fact they were being followed.

"Huh. Took longer than expected," Lightning muttered, gunning the engine. Screeching tyres burnt against the asphalt, and she barrelled down the street in chase. The limo took a hard left, back sliding out dangerously and narrowly avoiding traffic. The pinkette was more prepared, after days of studying the map, drifting around the corner with timed precision.

"Rikku they're comin' up on the exit for the overpass, be a dear and make sure they take it." Fang purred down the communicator, a cackling laugh met their ears through the speaker.

"Vanille's messed with the traffic lights down there, there's now a traffic jam that'll force them up onto the highway." Rikku replied, sounding about as giddy as Fang looked.

Lightning smiled and accelerated closer to the limo. "Let's give them some additional motivation then, shall we?" Their vehicle crept up on their intended target and crunched against the bumper. The limousine swerved, almost out of control and the pinkette backed off. They took the off ramp as predicted, a smile spreading across both their faces.

"This could be easier than we'd hoped, hey Sunshine?" Fang cheered, punching at the dashboard. A thunderous crack shattered their windscreen, causing Lightning to spin out as they hit the highway. A wiry man with long hair pulled back in a pony-tail was leaning out the window of the limo, taking aim again with a shotgun.

"You had to say something, didn't you. You had to say something and tempt the gods." Lightning growled, glaring at her partner. Fang shrugged and leant out the window, returning fire as they sped up once more. The limousine dodged in and out of traffic, causing the vehicles to veer into their path. The pinkette pulled Fang back inside before she was taken out by a swerving van. Cursing under her breath, Lightning gripped the wheel and tilted the car up the side of a concrete barrier, putting the car on two wheels and balancing precariously. It squeezed through the lane of traffic before slamming back down and speeding onwards.

Fang was staring in amazement. "I am… So hot… For you right now…" She ground out, fingers clutching at the dashboard to steady herself as Lightning swerved in and out of the way of other cars until she was back on the tail of the limo. She ignored the comment from the mischievous Pulsian beside her and moved up alongside the limo.

"We've got to keep them moving along the highways and away from the off ramps. Rikku how far out are we?" Lightning called out, hoping the blonde was paying attention.

"Not far, see where the bridge crests up ahead? We're just over the rise. Keep him in the middle lane and he'll never see it coming. Tell me when to start moving."

Lightning nodded and kept a careful eye on the car next to them. "Watch for the shooter. Fang, you got this?"

The brunette nodded and grinned manically. "As if there was any doubt!" She leant back out the window and put a couple of shots into the limo, intended to not hit anything vital but enough to keep the driver panicked and moving forward. The man with the pony tail appeared in the back window again, and for a moment made eye contact with Lightning instead of Fang.

Her heart hammered in her chest. "You've got to be kidding me.." She muttered as his expression turned to one of fury. He pointed his shotgun straight at the front tyre and fired. It was only through Lightning's quick reflexes that she hit the brakes at the last minute, saving the tyre from being blown out and the car flipped.

"You recognise that clown?" Fang asked, rubbing her arm from the impact on the dashboard. The pinkette simply nodded with a set jaw.

"I know who's in that car. We need to keep them on track, and not lose them." She said firmly, and rammed the back of the long sedan once more for good measure. "Rikku, start the truck and get to about eighty miles now, or the impact is going to put the limo in the front of the cab with you."

"Nukan nukan, drec ec kuehk du rind..." Rikku responded with a hesitant voice.

"It'll only hurt if you don't hit the eighty miles I told you to, now move it!" Lightning snapped, anger starting to affect her already limited patience.

As they hit the bridge, the gunfire got more erratic between the two of them. Lightning timed her move, waiting for the right moment to strike. Just as they reached the top of the crest, she swerved into the limo, sending it back into the middle lane. They sped over the rise, and the truck came into view. The back was open, and a ramp flipped down at the last minute. The limousine had no time to evade, and drove up into the back of the truck. The ramp raised, sealing the car inside. Its tyres screeched and spun, finding no traction to move with the vehicle parked on a belt that simply allowed the wheels to roll uselessly.

Fang stared blankly at the truck driving off in the direction of the warrens, jaw hung open. "Yep. You were right. I am going to ravage you senseless when we get back to base. Long. Hard. Excessively."

Lightning glanced over at the brunette, about to reply when Rikku's angry voice came back over the speakers. "Vun vilgc cyga! TURN. YOUR. COMMUNICATORS. OFF." Rolling her eyes, she switched their comms device off and drove back down to the Warrens feeling pleased with herself. They followed the truck through the streets, Fang occasionally stealing Lightning's hand as she reached down to shift gears to kiss her knuckles or bite at her wrist. When they pulled in back at the base, the truck was surrounded with plenty of the crew armed and primed to fire at will. Fang slid out of the car and sauntered up to the truck, knocking on the back door.

"I'm sure by now you've figured out that the back of the truck is enforced with armour plating, so any amount of shooting you've been doing in there is a complete waste of time. Now, if you'd like to come out and have a civilised discussion I will lower the ramp. If not, we'll just lower the ramp and I'll allow the thirty odd people surrounding you just let loose and go get a beer. Your choice."

Nothing was heard from inside, and Fang frowned. Lightning put a hand on her shoulder, stepping forward. "I know you're in there old man. What's say we have a bit of a catch up?"

A muffled harrumph was heard from inside the truck, and then a gruff voice called out. "Very well. Lower the ramp, and we'll talk." The pinkette nodded towards Rikku, and Fang drew her weapon, staying close.

"Hands where I can see them, beasties." the Pulsian growled in warning as the ramp lowered. The wiry man with the pony tail stepped out first, and as soon as he saw Lightning his expression darkened.

"Should have offed you when I had the chance." He sneered, looking her over. "Just like your precious-" The rage was instantaneous, and Lightning stepped forward to attack him.

The man drew his weapon, but a shot rang out before he even had a chance to fire. Fang looked around to see who had the fast reflexes, and found not one gun smoking. They looked up to see an old grizzled man limping with a cane, lowering a long barrelled pistol. A patch of red spread across the attacker's chest and he dropped to the ground, dead.

"I always had my suspicions he was responsible for that mess. Nice to know I can finally clear it up." He drawled, taking the final steps until he was face to face with Lightning and Fang. "So now that you've gone to such theatrical ends to find me, how may I be of assistance, Farron? It's certainly been a while."

Fang's eyebrows raised when she saw that the pinkette didn't even flinch. The smallest of smiles appeared on Lightning's face as she folded her arms and shook her head.

"You're right. It has been a while, hasn't it Auron?"

Chapter Text

"I do sincerely apologise for disposing of Kefka in such a cruel manner." Auron drawled, seated in the meeting room across from Fang and Lightning. "I would have done it much sooner had I realised he had been the one to pull the trigger. It was unfortunate enough that Sargent Farron's death took you from my employment, but the chain of events that followed that ended proceedings was... Needlessly destructive."

Lightning looked him over, far less intimidated by him than when she was a child and not interested in hearing his apologies. "So, enjoying your new position as the head of the Seraphim? Or are the rumours true and you're just a patsy?"

His left eye narrowed as he studied her, right closed permanently from scarring. "A gift from the Fal'Cie after the gang was taken out by Psicom. All the illusions of power, with none of it. I act on behalf of the leader, with none of the authority. A cruel joke at my expense, no less."

Fang groaned and spun in her chair, arms folded across her stomach. "I'm bored already. Can we kill him?" She deferred to the pinkette for the response, hoping for a favourable one so she could go get a drink.

Lightning gave her a look that was chastising and loving all the same time. "So, if not you, then who?" she asked, trying not to be exasperated by Fang's fidgeting. Auron sighed and leant back in the chair.

"His name is Seymour Guado. A real piece of work. Textbook sociopath, and just the kind of person to run the... Complexities of the Seraphim's activities."

Lightning had heard the name before. As aristocratic as they come, from a wealthy family. He was arrested years ago for the murder of his own father but they didn't have enough evidence to make the charge stick, so he walked. Everyone in the precinct knew he did it. But what could be done when the man had more money than sanity and an army of lawyers ready to beat any charge thrown against him?

"Etro... If a man like Seymour is at the helm no wonder most of the depravity is coming from the Seraphim. But why keep you around?"

Auron huffed and ground his teeth. "As an insult. A prize trophy. It's what they do. The Fal'Cie uses their ties with Psicom to put pressure on the gangs outside of their jurisdiction, so between the turf wars and busts they're put in a compromising situation where they have to accept aid from the cartel to survive.

It's what would have happened to Sazh had the deal not fallen through, and they knew it. "Do you know of any information about Sazh Katroy's son, Dajh?" Fang asked, suddenly invested in the conversation. Auron smiled a little, and tapped the desk with his hands.

"The NORA's former leader, correct? Yes, I remember the child." He finally replied, before silencing himself with a knowing smirk. Lightning pre-empted Fang's shift to aggression and placed a hand on her arm to steady her.

"What is it that you want old man?" She asked, voice deliberately monotone so as not to betray any emotion.

"Honestly?" He said with a wistful tone to his voice, "To retire. I was too old for this game when you were still a pup. Too old then, too old now."

Lightning leant forward with a dangerous glare. "And what would you give for your retirement? What could you offer to stop me from letting Fang have her way and put a bullet through your head?"

Auron held up his hand. "Three things. One I've already given you, the name of the true head of the Seraphim. He won't be hard to find. Just look for the tallest tower in Eden with the Fal'Cie logo on it." He paused to roll his shoulder, aging bones crunching and cracking as he stretched. "Secondly, I don't know where he is being kept, but Dajh Katzroy is being held by a member of Psicom, using him as an insurance policy should you succeed in your plans."

Fang and Lightning exchanged a look, expressions grim. They could bet every gil in the safe that Jihl was the one holding him hostage. "And the third?"

"A mildly simpler task. The name of a casino that holds not only the vast majority of the Children of Etro's laundered money, but also the head of the gang. I will give you what I have on it, which isn't much, but I am well aware of the... Significant resources at your disposal these days, Farron. But I give you all this, in exchange for allowing me to disappear. I would like to finally rest."

Fang's lips thinned and she ran her hands over the gun strapped to her side. She ignored the pointed stare from Lightning and rolled her eyes. "Bit too convenient, isn't it?" She drawled. The pinkette leant over and gently kissed her ear, immediately dissipating any anger she was about to bring to the surface. Auron quirked his eyebrow at the gesture, a fond smile gracing his features.

"I see." He murmured, his words having many layers of meaning. "You have a valid point however, Yun." Fang flinched at the use of her clan name, and narrowed her eyes. "I'll tell you what. Hold me here until the casino job is done to prove its validity. Take down the last of the Children of Etro and let it be the last I hear of that wretchedly pathetic name."

Lightning grinned as Fang's eyes lit up. "See, you're not the only one who thinks they have a stupid name. He can be trusted, Fang. He plays by the rules of the old guard. Balance and honour." She watched the shifting expressions across the tanned face and waited. Fang turned to Auron and scoffed.

"I still would really like to kill you. But I will defer to my partner's decision." She finally said with a shrug, and walked out of the room. Lightning shook her head and leant back in the chair with a sigh. The old man looked her over and gave a small grin.

"Wouldn't have pegged you to go for a girl like Oerba Yun Fang, Farron. But then, you were always full of surprises." He mused, eliciting a scowl from the pinkette. He looked down at his hands and hung his head. "I am sorry about what happened to your father. Kefka knew my rules about law enforcement death, and the chaos it brings onto our activities. He told me one of the prospects had shot your father. Had I have known it wasn't the case I would have strung him up and let you have the honour of vengeance."

"There is no honour in vengeance, Auron." Lightning replied, looking weary. "Only death that begets more death."

The old man laughed, and folded his hands over one another. "You always were my favourite. They don't make them like you anymore. Even after you gave Psicom all that information that put most of my hierarchy in prison, you were still my favourite."

Lightning managed to avoid the wince that threatened to cross her face. Of course, he'd know it was her. Nobody else that wasn't killed or arrested knew the intel that she'd given them. Face to face with the man that acted as a twisted surrogate father when her own was absent with work and then death, she couldn't help but feel she was fifteen all over again.

She should hate him, he was the source of all the problems in her life, but then she realised with sinking misery that she was responsible, not him. Her choices were what put her in that mess, her choices that inadvertently destroyed her family. She was the problem.

"I don't blame you, Farron. Your decisions didn't wind me up in the position I'm in now. They were merely a consequence of my own for not keeping a closer eye on Kefka." His words mirrored Lightning's inner turmoil and she looked away. "Now, if you could show me to somewhere that will house me for the moment, I think I would like to rest a while."

Lightning stood, motioning to Gadot who had been hovering by the door. "Good to see you back on your feet. Take him down to one of the completed holding cells. Do me a favour, don't let Serah know he's here."

Auron's eyebrows raised at the mentioning of her sister and Lightning waved him off. "I may be able to convince Fang not to kill you, but I can't guarantee the same from my sister."

"... Fair enough." He replied, allowing himself to be guided out of the room once he'd written down the details he had on the casino. Fang returned to find Lightning looking deep in thought, scouring over the documents. She slid in behind her, draping her arms across the front of the pinkette's chest. She heard the relieved breath that escaped and smiled.

"You ok? Can't be easy being faced with the ghosts of your past before lunch." She observed, feeling Lightning press back into her and hum.

"I think so. Just… Reminds me both how far I've come since those days, and yet at the same time, how I haven't really gone that far at all."

Fang's expression dropped, knowing that these moments were becoming more frequent for the pinkette as she struggled with her new position post catastrophe at the Psicom blackout site. She kissed the top of her head and nuzzled her with her cheek.

"You've gone plenty far Light, I know it's hard to see at the moment but you know… Like you said, we're probably veering into more vigilante territory than criminal underworld these days, a far cry from the drug running, car stealing that Auron had you doing when you were a kid."

Lightning glanced up at the Pulsian with a sardonic look on her face. "Fang, you have me stealing cars and we are running drugs." She couldn't help the smile pulling at the edges of her lips when Fang spluttered and tried unsuccessfully to dig herself out of the hole she'd just put herself in. Reaching up, Lightning pulled her down and kissed her.

"You… You're terrible, you know that, right?" The brunette complained to her laughing partner.

"I know. I know it's different… Not by much but still. We're funnelling profits back into the Warrens, helping Bartholomew build better community infrastructure in Eden, anyone working down the red-light district is there because they enjoy the work and are protected, looked after and happy, and the worst we're dealing in is Echo Grass which makes people giggly and hungry at best."

Fang spun her around in her chair and climbed into her lap. "Look, we don't have to do this forever you know. We take out the Fal'Cie, restore the balance to the city, you and I can take off. Go somewhere west past the Archylte Steppe and just… You know, live out the rest of our lives in peace and tranquillity." She didn't miss the wide-eyed, almost ravenous look in the cerulean gaze. Smiling, she reached out and patted Lightning on the cheek. "Now come on, let's have a look at how we're going to case this casino and ruin their week."

Lightning adjusted the collar on her red button up shirt and looked around the casino floor nervously. They'd found a gala night to attend, that would give them a nice crowded evening amongst high rollers and Eden elite. It required that they dress up for the occasion. Amongst her complaints, she didn't feel comfortable being out in the open like this for the first time since the Psicom facility, and having to do it in a three-piece suit was making her self-conscious.

Fang said she'd meet her there, and wondered how long it took for the brunette to throw together a suit. She had enough of them and always prattled on about wanting to look good and make entrances… Lightning grumbled to herself as she leant against the railing at the foot of the stairs, observing the crowd in the hall.

"Well don't you just look good enough to eat, Sunshine." A husky, familiar voice drawled behind her.

Lightning turned, sarcastic comment cocked and loaded but it died in her throat as she looked at the legs descending the stairs. They were highlighted by an ankle-length dress with slits right up both sides, stopping at the top of her thighs. She couldn't help but gape at Fang, jaw hung open. A rich, dark purple fabric adorned with red flowers cascaded down her body, and it hugged every curve. The sleeveless attire ended at her neck in a tight collar, that the pinkette found somehow made her more alluring despite her chest being covered.

"See something you like, sweetheart?" Fang asked innocently, batting her eyelashes at her partner. Lightning struggled to form words, her throat dry. The Pulsian leant in close as she hit the base of the stairs, relishing the hungry expression. "It's ok," She purred, reaching around and grabbing Lightning's rear, causing her to yelp. "I see something I like too."

"I… Uh… I um… Hi." The pinkette managed to stammer out, the same colour as her hair. She'd never seen the brunette so done up before, and she was clearly a woman on a mission that would likely involve them both out of their respective attire by the end of the evening. Fang slid her arm around hers and lead her out into the floor, taking a glass of wine from a nearby server and sipping daintily. She was thoroughly enjoying herself, and keeping the ex-GC officer off balance was the highlight of her evening. She didn't miss any off the glances that kept coming her way from her partner, who was trying and failing miserably to be subtle about it.

They moved through the hall, Fang putting on the charm heavily as she spoke with investors and Eden's elite, hanging off Lightning's arm. The pinkette observed the surroundings, noting guard positions and rotations. Counting the number and placement of the various security cameras in her head, she began to formulate a plan in her head. The plan that kept getting side-lined in her brain every time Fang brushed her fingers down her arm.

The Pulsian laughed coyly with an Eden citizen Lightning swore she recognised from television. The sound of the harsh accent, deliberately husky, wrapped around the pinkette's chest. She cleared her throat and excused herself, heading to the serving table to get some air. Lightning grabbed a champagne flute and stalked over to a nearby pillar, feeling like all eyes were on her. She scratched at the side of her face, very aware of the scar that now cut a savage line down her skin.

She watched Fang mingle until she lost sight of her, stumped as to how she was able to rub elbows with these aristocrats with ease despite the full tattoos on display. A sound of light scraping came from behind her and she turned to find Fang coming into view as she dragged her fingers along the pillar.

"Such a good-looking woman like you come alone or… With someone?" The Pulsian teased lightly, enjoying the flush that spread across Lightning's face. She spied the slightly downcast expression and pouted. "What's the matter, Light? Not finding enough guards we can beat up later?"

The pinkette shook her head and looked away. "No it's not that.. It's just… Being out and about, the first time since…"

"Ah," Fang concluded, brow furrowing in concern, "It's making you a little on edge."

Lightning exhaled and kicked at the floor with her polished shoe. "I feel like people are staring. I can't figure out if it's because they recognise us, or if they're looking at the… The scar…"

"Lightning, sweetie," Fang said sadly, drawing a line down the side of her face with her finger. "They're looking because you're the most beautiful woman in the room, with the second most beautiful woman in the room insistent on all of your attention."

Her comment brought a moment of laughter, with the pinkette looking coy. "You… Really don't mind the scar? It's just... It's a reminder of..."

"Of your survival. It's a reminder that the bitch commander couldn't get one over on you, and never will. It's a reminder of your strength, your resiliency and your inability to give up." Fang interjected firmly, refusing to break eye contact. Lightning looked up at her with wide eyes and bit her lip. Even after everything that had happened between them the Pulsian never swayed in belief of her abilities.

Fang drew a line with her finger along the edges of Lightning's jacket, expression faltering a little as a smirk slowly appeared. "Besides, I think it's sexy. Makes you look like you can fuck me up."

"Fang, I've had nearly five years of combat training, and whatever Auron taught me before that. I can fuck you up." Lightning sighed, exasperated.

"Not what I meant but I'll take that too." She replied, kissing along the jawline.

"Fang.. F-… Fang for the love of…"

"What?" She drawled, savouring the taste of the heated skin, "I'm giving these uppity pricks something to look at." She tugged at the lapels of Lightning's jacket and grinned as she leant in for the kill. "Besides, maybe I am looking for you to fuck me up. That suit is really doing it for me Light. I think I am being arrested by your beauty. Still got those handcuffs, officer Farron?"

There was a moment where the pinkette flinched at the sound of her real name, before realising the tone of Fang's voice held no bite to it and she was making fun of her. Lightning couldn't figure out if the joke unsettled her or made her want to remove the Pulsian from the hall and undo the zip on her dress with her teeth. It appeared that Fang was letting go of her earlier transgressions if she was able to poke fun at it.

She gave up on restraint and leant forward, wrapping her arms around Fang's waist and pulled her tight against her. The playful gasp that rang in her ears and travelled south. Lightning growled against the tanned throat and nipped at the skin, causing the Pulsian to groan. "I think I'll dress up more often if this is the treatment I get… Think we can find other parties to crash?" Fang hummed, excited by the attention she was getting from both her lover and the astonished – albeit jealous – stares they were getting from some of the stuffed shirts in the hall. "Do you have enough to formulate a plan?" She asked, feeling the pinkette nod against her neck. "Then maybe we should make use of the room I booked earlier. Presidential suite. With a hot tub. Only the best for my girl."

Lightning stared blankly at her, wide-eyed for several moments, before silently taking her by the hand and dragging her through the crowd to the exit. Fang allowed herself to be pulled along, laughing gleefully with a smile broad across her face.

Chapter Text

The confused frown was clearly evident in Fang's expression, as she looked at Lightning loading her gun on the roof above the casino.

"It's... Not... That I'm complaining, it just feels like this alleged plan of yours is closer to something that Gadot would cook up."

"You asked for efficient, I'm giving you efficient." The pinkette shrugged, holstering her pistol. Fang stared incredulously, eye twitching.

"Come on, Fang. Thought you'd be keen for this kind of action." Noel called out behind them, walking into view with his rifle slung over his shoulder. "Gadot would be proud, Light."

The ex-officer chuckled and flashed a brilliant smile that made Fang's heart flutter. While the pinkette was having more frequent bouts of identity issues lately, the other side of the coin meant that when she was focused on the mission, on an end goal, she was practically unstoppable. If Fang took a moment to be honest with herself, Lightning seemed almost cold and calculated in her execution, a fact which if she dwelled on it too long unsettled her. Still, the plan seemed… simplistic in its implementation and her gut twisted on instinct. "I have grave concerns, though whether it's for my safety or your own is open for debate when you come up with ideas like this, Light. You're the last person I expected to just…"

"Just burst in and shoot all these motherfuckers, as Gadot would say?"

"Well, yeah."

"Fang," Lightning breathed, stepping forward and taking Fang's hand, "Do you honestly think that I wouldn't have thought all the angles through? The gala was the other night, tonight the Casino hall is closed for a private function. A private function that involves a meeting with the last of the Children of Etro's hierarchy that Noel here hasn't picked off."

"Oh," Fang replied, looking at her feet.

"Which just leaves us to do what we do best." Lightning finished, pressing her lips against Fang's ear and revelled in the shivers she caused and the goosebumps that appeared along the tattooed arms.

The Pulsian regarded her companion, deciding that she was just going to run with this calm and collected version of Lightning while it was still here, and deal with the concern niggling at the back of her mind later. "Noel, how much of the hierarchy have we got left to take out after your hunt?" Fang queried, eyeing off the room below from the window up top. He shrugged and started peering through his scope.

"Aside from the head honcho himself? Enough to be a problem this evening. Hoped I'd gotten more of them but these bastards are like cockroaches. Kind of like Vipers, really. Always coming out of the woodwork."

"Watch it, Noel.." Fang growled in warning, anger flaring at the jab. Lightning looked away with a wince, fingers slipping down to unbuckle the holding strap on her Blazefire.

"What? I'm just saying. You may be able to get away with things when all is said and done seeing as you're sleeping with her, but she knows my face. She knows my identity." He said with a shrug, spinning around and eyeing the pinkette off dangerously. "I've been in this game for a long time now, and I'll be damned if I let some supposed saviour of NORA end it for me." He snapped, hoisting his gun up at Lightning.

"Noel, what the hell are you doing?" Fang hissed, rage surfacing at a dangerous speed. Lightning placed a hand on her shoulder, but the Pulsian didn't turn. She only withdrew her attention from the man in front of her when she saw the barrel of Lightning's gunblade appear over her shoulder, pointed straight at him.

"He's made a deal with the Children of Etro. They have someone he cares about. Paddra Nsu Yeul, correct?" The pinkette said quietly, watching as the Shadow Hunter's eye twitched in recognition of the name. "I do my homework Noel, and I do it well. Like I said, I plan for every. Single. Angle."Lightning stepped out in front of her companion slowly, not making any sudden movements when the man was currently on a hair trigger. Fang's eyes widened and a savage snarl tore from her throat.

"Sorry Fang, and it's nothing personal Lightning," Noel sighed as he drew the laser sight to her chest. "I wish the deal didn't mean you had to die in exchange for a future with Yeul."

"They can't give you that future, Noel, but I can." Lightning said firmly, staring him down. "I know of the blood on your ledger, I have no reason to turn you in. But you're eating into my window of opportunity here and we're on a time limit to get this job done. So, put the gun down, let's finish what we started, and destroy the Children of Etro."

A flash appeared at the same time the rifle let out a thunderous crack, and Fang yelled out as she fell back. She looked up in a panic to find Lightning still standing there, blade extended on her Blazefire with a stone-cold expression on her face. Noel's rifle was split in two. The Pulsian stared in awe at the sight, jaw hung low. Noel dropped the other half of his rifle and fell backwards to the ground. "Is that all you got?" Lightning drawled, unimpressed.


"You aimed high. That was never going to hit me even at this range. You don't have it in you to kill me." She finished, voice dripping with sarcasm.

Noel looked away, suddenly feeling ashamed of his actions. Lightning's gaze softened, and she knelt on the ground in front of him. "We found Yuna and brought her home to Rikku and Paine. What about Yeul? There is nowhere they can hide her where we won't find her, Noel."

"It's impossible to find her, I've been looking for years." He despaired, burying his face in his hands.

"We live to make the impossible, possible." Lightning urged, squeezing his shoulder while Fang looked on in complete disbelief. "Let me help you find her. Stop living in the shadows of your past Noel, and help us finish this."

He nodded slowly and allowed himself to be helped up by the pinkette's outstretched hand. "Though Noel, you try that shit again and Fang is probably going to tear you limb from limb."

"You say that like I'm not going to do that now." The Pulsian growled in the background. He paled a little, well aware of her notorious anger. Lightning slid an arm around her waist, nails scratching in gentle circles to attempt to placate her. Noel took his opportunity and bowed, retreating from the roof to enter the building.

Fang turned to the pinkette in confusion. It had all happened so fast she could barely process what had happened. "How…"

"Did I know he was going to try to kill me?" Lightning finished, watching his form vanish into the shadows. "Rygdea called me the other day saying he'd intercepted communication from Ardyn Izunia, the head of the CoE. He'd put out a hit request on my head to the Shadow Hunter, and had confirmed it had been picked up. My former handler wanted to give me fair warning in case the Hunter showed up in the Warrens, not knowing I was already aware of who he was."

"Shit, Light…" Fang breathed, visibly shaken. "How did you know he was going to miss?"

"… I didn't. Not exactly. I tampered with his gun on the way in here so that the recoil would be more than he's used to, force his aim up as he shot. It wasn't guaranteed to work but I like to think after enough time with you, Lady Luck is on my side."

Fang's lips thinned, not amused in the slightest. "So you knew all this, and were going to let me in on it when exactly?"

Lightning knew in an instant she'd misstepped with the brunette, knowing where the argument was about to head. "Fang.." She whispered, tucking a dark strand of hair behind her ear, "I love you, but you have a terrible poker face. And you have a mild protective streak with me. If you had have known he was going to attempt to kill me, would you have even let him get to the roof?"

Narrowing her eyes, Fang opened her mouth to retort but came up empty. She knew Lightning was right, but it didn't stop it from stinging. "I promise I'll make it up to you, any way you want." The pinkette added with a smirk that threatened to undo Fang's bad mood.

"... Don't we have people to kill..." she relented with a grumble. Lightning kissed her on the cheek and smiled bashfully, dragging her fingers down the tanned arm.

Fang cocked the hammer on her pistol, choosing to take her anger out on the people that really deserved it. "Welp, let's go shoot all these motherfuckers then." She drawled, kicking the door open to the roof.

They filed into the building, sticking to the shadows and looking for plenty of vantage points. They crept into the main hall from the second floor, overlooking the small group from the balcony above. The two women moved up alongside Noel and Fang stared him down.

"I've known you for a long time mate, and I'm not stupid. I know what Yeul means to you Noel, but you should know by now what Light means to me. That was a stupid fucking stunt and you know it. You even think about pulling a single strand of hair from her head and there will be nowhere you can run, nowhere you can hide where I won't grant you an agonizingly slow, painful death." She growled, flashing her teeth close to his face.

A single tear slipped down his cheek and his breath came out in a ragged shudder. "I... Know. I... Couldn't. Yeul wouldn't want that, to know that her freedom came at the cost of another life. They said they were going to kill her if I didn't do the job."

"And there is still time for that, young Shadow Hunter." A voice called out from below them, and Fang flinched. The trio peered over the balcony to find about twenty guns aimed squarely at them. Ardyn Izunia stood at the back of the crew, arms folded and looking amused.

"For fuck's sake... Is this part of the plan?" she groaned sarcastically at her partner.

"Mmmmm... Not exactly but I can work with it." Lightning replied with a shrug, pulling a grenade from her belt. "You want to do the honours?" she asked, handing it over to Fang. A wide grin split her face and she pulled the pinkette forward for a kiss.

"Gods, I love you." Fang breathed against her, and Noel rolled his eyes.

"You two are honestly hopeless." He sighed as he snatched the grenade from the Pulsian's hand and lobbed it over the balcony. The explosion that tore through the hall sent gangs flying and coins scattering from the slot machines. The Children of Etro who managed to retain their footing opened fire on the balcony and the trio scrambled.

"Ardyn's down there, we need him alive so that I can find out where he's keeping Yeul!" Noel yelled out as he began to take shots at the gang on the ground floor. The leader was holed up behind a blackjack table, with about five of his lackeys protecting him while the others moved towards the trio on the balcony.

"Rocket!" Fang yelled out as she spied a thug armed with a launcher. She rolled out of the way and ran from their vantage point. Lightning did the same in the opposite direction, dragging Noel with her. The balcony exploded, the impact shunting the two of them down the flight of stairs. As they tumbled to the ground Lightning and Noel found themselves surrounded with plenty of guns aimed at their head.

"Alright, that's enough. Luckily this place is over-insured or I would be a great deal more upset with the mess you three are making." Ardyn droned, sounding thoroughly bored. "With the claim I'll be making in the morning it will more than make up for the money you stole from my bank downtown."

Shots fired from behind them, with Fang taking cover and knocking out a couple of the brutes with savage precision. Lightning was hoisted to her feet along with Noel, held by the back of her neck. They were moved in front of Fang's line of sight to serve as a human shield.

"I grow weary of this drawn-out battle between our respective organisations, Oerba Yun Fang." Ardyn sighed, adjusting his coat with a flourish. He turned to Noel and gave him a disgusted once-over. "And you. You disappoint me Shadow Hunter, but I am a forgiving man. I'll give you one last opportunity to fulfil the terms of your agreement, and you can go free and so does your beautiful flower, Paddra Nsu Yeul."

"Don't you fucking dare!" Fang yelled from her spot behind a cluster of broken slot machines. "I will end your miserable life if you even think of harming her, Noel!"

The hunter looked at Ardyn with a nod and took the gun from his offered hand. He then stalked back over at Lightning, raising his pistol in her face. "Did you mean what you said before?" He asked quietly, arm still and his aim true.

"Every word. Check my phone."

He reached forward and pulled the device from her pocket, and Fang strained her neck to see what was going on. She flung herself back behind the machines when she nearly had her head taken off her shoulders from gunfire. She hadn't felt this helpless since the time she was shot in the shoulder in the shipping yard. Or the Psicom blackout facility. She was tired of feeling helpless. Especially where Lightning was concerned.

Noel opened the screen on the device to find a message from Vanille, that was simply an address. Poltea Hospital – Psychiatric Ward B, Room 7, bed 2. His eyes flicked up to Lightning, knowing exactly what it was. "Confirmed?" He whispered. The faintest of nods from Lightning, and he simply turned to Ardyn and shot him in the head.

"Fang! Now!" Lightning yelled, leaping to the floor to get out of the way. The brunette threw herself from cover and opened fire on the remainders of the Children of Etro, who were still too stunned from seeing their leader gunned down to have reacted. Noel and Fang worked in tandem until the hall was littered with bodies and only themselves remained.

Lightning got up and dusted herself off, surveying the carnage around her. "Not bad." She hummed, hand outstretched to get her phone back. Noel handed it to her with no fair amount of hesitancy.

"I… Thanks. And, I'm sorry. You don't deserve any of what I did or said before. Despite everything I've had no reason to doubt you before, I shouldn't have started now." He said, head bowed. She smiled and patted him on the shoulder.

"Don't worry about it. I get it, and the things you do for the people you care about. We can arrange to have her moved so nobody will know where she is, and she'll still get the care she needs." Lightning offered, smiling gently.

Fang walked up to the two of them, and Lightning's smile faltered when she saw the dark expression aimed squarely at her. The brunette got up close and pointed a finger in her face. "Do not. Ever. Put me in a position like that. Again." She growled, before turning on her heels and storming from the room.

Lightning and Noel stood there, dumbfounded. The hunter nodded towards her, with an awkward look on his face and scratched the back of his head. "Pretty sure you might want to go after her."

She nodded and chased after her partner, to find her pacing out the front of the building. "Fang…" Lightning said quietly, to get her attention as she slowed up to the clearly agitated woman.

"You knew it was all going to go down like that, didn't you? Once again, you keep me in the dark. I thought we were past this."

Lightning remained silent, knowing any answer she gave would likely only enrage the Pulsian further. She yelped as Fang suddenly spun and wrapped her in a tight hug.

"Don't… Don't do that again. I can't..." Fang said with a shaking voice, burying her head into the crook of the pinkette's neck. "Please… I don't want to feel like I'm going to lose you again.."

Lightning's heart broke at Fang's words, realising the core of the issue with her plan. "I'm so sorry." She whispered, kissing the side of her head. "I… I didn't mean to keep... I just wanted to prove that I could do this, that I'm not undercover anymore and that-"

"You don't need to prove shit, Farron," Fang snapped angrily, using her real name as emphasis before her expression softened. She leant down and kissed her, holding her partner close. "You don't. I already know what you're capable of. I've witnessed it firsthand. I know. I don't need you to prove that you're in this for the long haul, you've already gotten the scars to show for it. Stop trying to prove it to me, and stop trying to prove it to yourself." She held Lightning's face back, running her thumbs along her cheekbones.

"I'm sorry." The pinkette whispered, leaning into her touch.

"I love you, Lightning Farron. What do I need to do to prove that so you can stop these insane schemes trying to prove what a badarse you are? Enough, Claire. Enough."

They held each other in silence, while the casino burned behind them and sirens wailed in the distance.

Chapter Text

Fang caught Serah wandering through the streets of the Warrens mid-morning, and watched as she interacted with the locals and their children. The young Farron had been "gifted" a building that was retrofitted for a school, and she had been teaching the youth classes there, even some of the adults who had missed the opportunity to learn to read and write. The Pulsian waved and began to jog over to the pinkette, not for a second missing the sigh and the sudden shift in her expression to something less than friendly.

"What can I do for you Fang?" she sighed, not looking for idle conversation from the brunette. Fang scratched at the back of her head nervously, amazed at how someone so small could muster the same threatening look that her older sister held on a regular basis.

"Oh, uh, not much little Farron, was just... Checking in, making sure you had everything you needed or wanted for the kids." She replied, looking around at the transformation of her once decrepit neighbourhood.

Sarah narrowed her eyes and studied the Pulsian. She had to concede that the Warrens looked like a vibrant community that thrived because of NORA, and that Fang was all too willing to lend a hand when Serah mentioned about opening a school to make herself useful. Despite the fact she was face to face with someone who had a body count higher than the shoes she owned, she marvelled at the fact that the woman was nervous around her. She wondered why.

"I'm sure that's not the only reason you're here Fang so, out with it."

"Oh. Right. Yes. I was wondering if I could ask you about your sister. Specifically, when she ran with the Valefor gang."

The younger Farron immediately glowered. "Isn't that a question you should be asking her? Or are you back to not trusting her again?" she snapped, turning on her heel to storm off. Fang caught her by the wrist and pulled her back, then moved to hold onto her shoulders.

"I have asked her, and she has told me. But seeing as you're her sister, and someone who is studying psychology I thought you might have more of an insight into what you've observed or she has missed. Or suppressed." Fang grated, annoyed at the attitude coming from her partner's sibling. She let go of Sarah's shoulders and bit her lip. "I'm... Worried about her."

All her hang ups towards the Pulsian suddenly forgotten, she looked the gang leader over with a frown. "You... Really love her, don't you?" Serah asked cautiously. The expressionless stare she received in return made her wince and she sighed, hanging her head. "Alright, alright. Stupid question. I was... Still young when Claire was running with the gang. It was not long after mom had died." She began, Fang guiding her down the street to a nearby café.

"Dad tried to deal with his grief by throwing himself into his work… A trait Claire definitely shares with him." She continued, Fang snorting in amused agreement. A server fussed over them for a few moments before a pointed glare from both of them had him scarpering for the kitchen. "It hurt us both that he was so absent in the wake of mom passing, but we all deal in our different ways. Claire got into a lot of trouble in school, getting into fights… She drew the attention of some of the local gangs, trying to recruit her. Mostly she ignored them, or punched them."

The waiter interrupted them once more, only to bring over coffees and cake for the duo, on the house as always. He said nothing and bowed before running off and Fang smiled. "Not sure who he was more afraid of there mini-Farron, you can be as dangerous looking as your sister sometimes with that glare."

"I learn from the best." Serah replied with a wistful smile. She stirred her coffee while staring off into the distance, until she shook her head and returned to the conversation. "Auron. It was Auron that finally got her. He didn't act like the other gang leaders in the area. He was kind, patient, listened to her. All the things dad didn't do. She practically did a swan dive head first into the gang when he'd invited her to join. He was reeling her in, not that she could see that. Probably still doesn't."

Fang's lips thinned as she thought about the man still sitting in the holding cell. They were leaving him for a few more days before they could confirm the Children of Etro were out of the picture for good. "So Auron ended up becoming a father figure instead." She mused, tapping her fingers against the table. A lot of it made more sense now, with the way Lightning showed restraint with him, even chatting casually with the man indirectly responsible for their father's death. It was a strange sort of disconnect. "I guess when you feel like you're alone you'll latch onto anyone that throws kindness your way."

Serah nodded with a small tug of her lips. "Very observant. Maybe you should be taking the psychology class too." She teased, enjoying the tiny scowl that appeared in response. "But yes. She did see him as a surrogate father of sorts, and railed against dad when he found out about her… Activities. He realised his mistake with Claire too late, and the damage was already done by the time he tried to do something about it. Let me ask you something, Fang." She said firmly, making the brunette visibly flinch, "Why are you asking me about it?" The Pulsian thought that the straight forward approach would be best with someone so frustratingly perceptive. She shrugged and stirred her own coffee.

"I don't think she's been… Coping as well as she thinks with everything that's happened. She has always thrown herself into the tasks at hand from what I've seen, but I don't know, and to be honest she doesn't know either, whether that was only because of the… operation she was assigned." She finished, voice tight as she felt a stab of hurt in her chest at the reminder. Luckily, she loved the pinkette more than anything so it subsided quickly. Still, it liked to rear its head from time to time.

"What would you do if it gets too much?" Serah asked bluntly, firm expression on her face. "What would you do if this gang stuff with the Fal'Cie and Psicom gets out of control? What will you do if you're forced to choose between my sister and finishing what you started?"

If the younger Farron thought she wasn't going to be surprised by the answer, she was mistaken. Fang looked down at her hands and noticed they were shaking, and she clasped them together, tattooed fingers interlocking. "I'd give it up." She said quietly.


"You heard me," the Pulsian said more resolutely, "I would give it up. I would give it all up for her. I would tear down the sky if it would mean I could save her. Eden can burn for all I care."

Serah slid her hand across the table and held the tanned, tattoos fingers in her own, startling the Pulsian. "I've got a lot of reasons to be mad with you, Oerba Yun Fang. But I can see how much you love my sister. She's hurting right now, and struggling with a lot. It was a significant impact to her mental health to go through a long period of undercover work with you, but the strain on her now that everything is out in the open is likely considerably worse. If you're by her side though, she'll get through it. A lot of what she's doing now is probably just reminding her of her time with Auron."

"That much is obvious, from the look on her face the other day after we caught him." Fang said with a lazy shrug. She noticed the colour draining from Serah's face and grew concerned.

"What. Did you say?" The young Farron asked, her voice deliberately slow and calm.

"Uh… We… Uh… Captured Auron..? Did… Lightning not tell you…?" Fang stammered, suddenly very worried of how deep she just stuck her foot in her mouth.

Serah closed her eyes and exhaled, silent. She quietly stood from the table and turned to leave the café. She paused at the door, and looked back at the Pulsian. "Thank you for telling me, Fang. It appears you're far more honourable than she is."

Fang watched her leave with a mortified expression on her face.

"…. Shit."

Black thigh high boots clicked on the table as Paine swung her legs onto the desk and leant back in her chair. She was casually flipping through the newspaper when Rikku walked into the room and jumped into her lap, crumpling the paper. The silver-haired woman rolled her eyes in annoyance but still held a smile on her face anyway.

"Can I help you?" She drawled, tucking a braid behind the blonde's ear.

"Just thinking a lot, that's all." She replied, eyes flicking down to her hands that were resting on Paine's waist. "Yunie's been… practicing on her aim and getting better."

"Oh?" Paine leant forward with interest, pulling Rikku tighter against her. They stared at each other for a moment before she sighed. "She wants in on the next run against the Seraphim doesn't she?"

Rikku worried her bottom lip and nuzzled into Paine's neck. "Yeah. I don't know if she's fully aware of what that means though." They both knew what it meant, without a doubt. While Rikku and Yuna had both gone through a raft of trauma at the hands of the Seraphim trafficking trade, Rikku had grown up in the desert bazaar of Bikanel, filled with cutthroats and thieves. Yuna spent her childhood on an island south of Bodhum, idyllic until her capture. The blonde had fallen in with NORA early on in the piece with her rescue, and had no qualms resorting to whatever was necessary to get the job done. Though Paine's contributions to the gang were only recent, she had fallen in with Rikku not long after she was freed and didn't hesitate to get her hands dirty if it meant getting closer to her childhood friend who had grown up with her and Lulu.

"Do you want me to talk to her?" Paine asked with a shrug. Rikku nodded and snuggled in close.

"You ever think when I asked you to meet Fang that this is where you'd end up?" the blonde asked, looking up into Paine's red hued eyes. The silver-haired woman laughed and held Rikku closer.

"No, I expected... Honestly I don't know what I expected. The stripper poles maybe, but that's about it."

Rikku smiled and leant in to kiss the pale lips that were twisted up in a smirk. "We've got our family back. I... I don't mind if Yuna is serious about getting involved. It would be good to have the YRP crew back together again. I just want her to realise what she's getting herself into."

Paine opened her mouth to speak but was interrupted by Fang sticking her head into the room. "You seen either of those two pink-haired banes of my bloody existence?" The brunette asked, the panic in her voice obvious.

Rikku pointed out back. "Haven't seen Serah, Lightning is down in the garage with Auron, seeing him off."

"Fuck. Ok. Thanks." Fang said hurriedly and vanished, running off down the hall. The two women were left alone again, staring at each other.

"You think something's happened? That sounded... Concerning." The blonde said, running her fingers through the silver hair. Paine hummed and gave a small grin.

"Fang's probably fucked something up again... Wanna go watch?"

"... Yes. Then we go find Yuna."

They left the boardroom together, Rikku dragging Paine along by the hand. They caught up with Fang as she entered the garage to see Lightning chatting casually with her former boss, even laughing.

Fang was uncomfortable at the sight, especially after her conversation with Serah. There were clearly issues regarding her disconnect with her own past. She jogged up to them just as she heard Auron's voice, wistful and affectionate.

"You know there's still always a place by my side, Farron." He said, placing a hand on her shoulder.

"And here I thought you were looking to retire, not recruit." The Pulsian growled in warning, and Lightning looked over at her, startled by her sudden appearance. "Job's done Auron. Car is ready for you, and you can pick a direction and fuck off. If you can still see Eden in your rear-view mirror you haven't fucked off far enough. If I even get wind of you doing anything other than sipping cocktails on a beach I will personally see to it that you answer for everything you've done."

"Fang, please. That's enough," Lightning said, annoyed at the brunette's aggressive demeanour. "There's no need to-"

"Are you forgetting who runs this show, Lightning? You may have had some...prior experience in gang life before coming here," Fang snapped, gesturing at Auron with a disgusted look on her face, "but that doesn't give you the ability to dictate how I address scum like him. This is my crew. Don't you forget it." The two women got in close, tension and adrenaline flaring.

Silence descended in the garage, save for the approaching footsteps across the floor. Both Fang and Lightning turned to find Serah stalking towards them, expression dark. The colour drained from the elder Farron's face as she realised nobody told her that Auron was here. She looked at Fang accusingly and glared. "You told her?" she hissed.

Fang's aggressive expression faltered for an instant, replaced by mild embarrassment. "It was an accident! I thought you would have told her!" The two of them suddenly quietened as they saw the younger pinkette raise a gun squarely at Auron.

"Serah, what are you doing..." Lightning warned, reaching out for the weapon. Her sister stepped back out of her grasp, gun still trained square at the deposed leader.

"What you should have done the moment you saw him. He was responsible for our father's death and I find you here laughing with him like nothing happened?"

Lightning stepped forward again to stop her, and Serah whirled around and fired at her feet. The bullet struck the ground a hair's breadth from the elder Farron's feet, and she fell back with a yelp. "You think you're the only one who knows how to use one of these? I practised at the range for years because I was so scared of what you would bring to our doorstep with him playing the patriarchal role in your life. I can hit the glasses off his face from fifty paces. Want to see?" Serah yelled, bringing the gun back towards the boss.

Yuna had come into the garage to see what the commotion was about, and immediately got pulled behind a vehicle by Rikku and Paine. They watched as Fang walked slowly towards Serah, hand outstretched.

"Mini-Farron, you don't want to do this. Trust me. You got every reason to be mad at your sister, but this isn't the way to go."

"What would you know about the right way to go, Fang? You're a criminal. There is no right way for you." Serah snapped, her eyes never leaving Auron. Fang looked down at Lightning, who was still on the ground with a pained look on her face. She turned back to Serah and signed.

"You take a life and it changes you. Everything becomes harsher. The world less joyous. You lose that.. That sense of beauty. The first time I took a life, back in Oerba, I felt the instant my soul turned to ash. I couldn't see that end for you, Serah. The price isn't worth it."

Fang glanced back at Lightning for a moment and found tears trailing along the scar on her face. The younger Farron's grip on the gun tightened, despite the fact that she had tears running down her cheeks as well. "Tell me Auron. Do you believe you're innocent in our father's death?"

He shrugged, looking bored by the display. "Kefka was the one who pulled the trigger. Not me."

"But did you order it?" Serah snapped, finger drawing closer to the trigger. He stayed silent. "Well? A lackey may have pulled the trigger but did you order to kill whoever the intruder was in the compound that night?"

He smiled, giving the young pinkette a once over. "You're asking me like you already know the answer, so why should I respond?"

"Because I want her to hear it!" Serah growled, pointing at her sister.

"... I did. I knew who it was, and I ordered the problem to be dealt with."

Serah narrowed her eyes and lined up her shot. She fired, just as Fang leapt forward. The Pulsian pushed Auron out of the way and the bullet grazed along her side.

"Fang!" Lightning cried out, scrambling over to the brunette. The brunette groaned as she turned over, holding her hand over her side.

"I am… So sick… Of taking bullets… For you pink-haired cretins..." she complained through gritted teeth. Serah ran over and put the gun on the ground, grabbing at Fang. The obvious question of why plastered all over her pained expression. The Pulsian smiled gentle and took slow breaths to still the throb in her side. "Gotta maintain the balance, mini-sunshine. No harm come to an innocent." She grimaced, and watched as the younger Farron became enraged. She put a bloodied hand onto Serah's and gripped it tightly before she could open her mouth. "Not him. You."

Lightning on the other hand, was no innocent. She looked up at Auron with a darkness in her eyes that he hadn't seen since her father's death. He closed his eyes and nodded. "Didn't think there was honour in vengeance, Farron." He said with a low chuckle. She merely stood silently, drawing her own weapon and firing.

"Claire!" Serah cried out, and Fang just looked away. Auron slumped forward onto his knees, with a smile still on his face.

"It isn't vengeance, Auron. It's justice." Lightning said bluntly, a tear slipping down her cheek.

"You always… Were… My… Favour…"

Once he drew his last breath, she turned and knelt on the ground to check on Fang. "Are you ok?" She asked quietly, her voice barely audible.

"I'll live. Sorry. 'Bout earlier. You… Need a moment?" The brunette replied, looking her companion over. A curt nod was the only response she was given and she patted Lightning on the knee. "Go. I'll come find you later." She and Serah watched the elder Farron depart, anyone else in the garage making a tactful retreat as well save for Yuna, Paine and Rikku, who came over to help.

"So, on a scale of one through ten, exactly how whipped are you, boss?" The blonde asked with a cheeky grin while she dragged over a med kit from the boot of a nearby car.

"Oh fuck off, you. Minus whatever respect points." Fang grumbled, wincing at the pain as the young Al Bhed applied the gauze.

"Sorry, that only works with Paine. Now hold still you big baby."

The Pulsian hissed as Rikku worked away, patching up the wound as Serah looked on at Auron lying on the floor. Fang looked the younger pinkette over and reached up to tilt her face away. "Does it feel any better, knowing he's gone?" She asked solemnly, face firm. Serah shook her head, trying desperately not to cry. "Now you know what I meant, little Farron. Look at what it does to people like us. People like your sister. I wouldn't want that for you, any more than I want it for Lightning. If a scrape from a bullet saves your own soul from turning to ash, it's a price I willingly pay. Though… Etro you're a good shot. I'm impressed to say the least."

Serah couldn't help but laugh, and bent down to kiss the brunette on the forehead. "Thank you." She whispered against the tanned skin and Fang hummed in response.

Vanille raced over from a side entrance, having heard what had happened and stared pointedly at her sister. "Honestly Fang can you go at least a week without being shot?" She sighed, exasperated. The redhead got to work and helped Rikku finish patching her sibling up. Green eyes looked up adoringly at Vanille and Serah smiled at the expression she saw. Fang turned to the young girl and gave her a lop-sided grin.

"You're alright kiddo. Just, don't hate her. You said yourself, we all deal with grief differently. Your dad ran, your sister fought. Doesn't make them bad people, just broken people." Fang said, turning back to the pinkette. She nodded towards her sister to draw Serah's attention to Vanille as the young Oerban started laying out gauze along the wound. "People like you, mini-Farron, people like Vanille here, it's you guys that will let our hearts rise from the ashes. We'll remember to love again, when all is lost in darkness."

Serah smiled and squeezed Fang's hand. "Claire did warn me about how poetic you get at times.." She teased lightly, amused at the blush that appeared along the tanned skin.

"Hush. Go find your sister. Make sure she's ok. Make sure the both of you are ok. I'm not interested in catching any more bullets for or from either of you." Fang dismissed her with a scowl, while Vanille's jade eyes flicked between the two of them. Serah retreated before the realisation sunk in, and heard the redhead's voice trailing after her as she raced from the garage.

"Wait, she shot you?"

Chapter Text

The sound of approaching soft footsteps broke Lightning from her reverie, overlooking the waterways from her usual spot in the cavern. Serah came over and sat down next to her, staying silent and observing the elder Farron. She was surprised to find Lightning wasn't crying, just staring off into space with that same distant look in her eyes she had seen on and off since their father's funeral.

"I'm sorry." Lightning said, breaking the silence between them as she turned to face her younger sister. "I should have told you that we'd captured him. Considering our history with Auron it wasn't right to hide his presence from you. Just figured I could handle it all on my own, as per usual."

Serah sighed and rested her head on her sibling's shoulder, watching the water tumble from a nearby storm drain. The bioluminescent plant life gave the cavern an ethereal glow, only lit further by the sunlight from the grate covered holes far above them. Fang had taken the time to install some extra lighting around their usual spot, to give a bit more warmth to the setting. It was peaceful in its own way, and she could understand why it was a place the Pulsian had said the two of them frequented.

Glancing up at her sister, Serah looked at the weary expression on her face, noting the circles under her eyes and the glazed look of her eyes.

"As much as I still have a few... Hang ups about the... Work that goes on here, I know how much they value family in this place. And that's the thing Claire. You weren't alone then, and you're not alone now. Stop taking the world on your shoulders when we're all here to help."

Lightning simply nodded, not able to voice anything else with the lump in her throat. She put an arm around Serah's waist and pulled her into a tight hug. She rested her chin on the younger Farron's head and sighed.

"There's other things you can do for this place, and the Warrens, and even Eden without resorting to explosions and shooting people, Claire. You know Fang wouldn't fault you if you wanted to take a step back, she accepts you for who you are." Serah said quietly from her spot nuzzled into sister's shoulder.

A bitter laugh escaped from Lightning's throat as she untangled herself and leant forward, staring into the water. "Therein lies the problem, Serah. Accepts me for who I am… I don't even know what that means anymore." They both heard Fang enter the cavern and move quietly over to them, but she still kept her distance. Though she was being respectful by giving them some privacy, the brunette was listening just as intensely as Serah was.

"I couldn't figure out who I was when I was just kid Farron to Auron and the Valefor gang, couldn't figure out who I was when I was lieutenant Claire Farron to Amodar and the Guardian Corps, couldn't figure out who I was when I was Aranea Palazzo, undercover agent for Psicom charged with infiltrating the gang." Lightning said with a sad note to her voice

Serah stayed silent for a moment, thinking her words over carefully. "And what about after?" she asked slowly, watching for her sister's expression. Lightning turned to look at the Pulsian with a soft smile.

"The first time in the Warrens, when Fang named me… It was ironically the first time I ever truly felt like myself. Even given the circumstances while still undercover, she let me be whoever I wanted to be. That was why it was so easy to love her. When I was with Fang, I felt… Limitless."

The brunette coughed and looked away, redder than Lightning had ever seen the tanned skin. Serah saw the complete adoration in her sister's eyes and smiled. "How about now? Do you… Still feel limitless?" She asked, starting to come to a conclusion about her sibling's current issues. The elder Farron made a gesture for Fang to come closer, then looked down at the ground.

"No, and only through fault of my own."

Lightning felt strong arms wrap around her from the other side, and she was sandwiched in between the two most important people in her life. Fang pulled the pinkette by the neck to bring her close to her lips, pressing them against her ear.

"Don't forget what I told you the first night we found this place, sweetheart. The line is going to blur sometimes between right and wrong, but as long as we're always mindful of that line, we'll come out on the right side." The brunette whispered, hearing the slightest gasp come from Lightning as the words sunk in. That was the trigger she was looking for, and leant back after a gentle kiss against the pale cheek.

"I get it," Fang said, drawing out a long hum afterwards. "This is why you've been struggling, and fighting with all these insane schemes. You're still trying to make it up to me, still trying to prove you're not a viper. Yet you still worry about that line, and what it means to cross it. So now you're torn. You don't want to admit that you're good at what you do, or that you enjoy it. Because to admit that would mean all that fighting through the academy would have been for nothing in your eyes, am I right?"

Lightning's eyes widened but she still stared straight ahead, unwilling to answer. Serah's jaw tightened and her eyes moved between Fang and her sister. The Pulsian sighed and laid down on the ground, staring at the ceiling. She gestured lazily at the younger pinkette and closed her eyes as she relaxed against the stone beneath her.

"Mini-Farron… Here, we're honest in our dishonesty. Legitimate in our illegitimacy. There's no ulterior motive here, we put everything on the table."

As much as she hated to admit it, Serah knew she had to concede the point. Sure, they skimmed off the top every now and again, but anything they collected from the businesses in the Warrens went straight back into the community, and the owners were all too happy to pay. She looked down at Fang and motioned for her to continue.

"I started running with gangs out of necessity. Our families lived on a reservation, adherents to the old creeds, the Hunter's Way, so when they passed they held no land nor assets, thus Vanille and I were on the streets. We hid in the sewer system for shelter, stole from the markets for food. Nobody wanted to take in a couple of orphans, so we did what we could to survive." Fang paused, chuckling at a memory.

"I got picked up by one of the local gangs when one of the lieutenants saw me beating up a kid who had been abusing a stray dog. They offered us food and shelter, clothing and stature. Naturally, I took it. They had me running collections on local businesses, not realising the gang was hiking the price every month to force them out of work. I did some... Horrible things for the boss. And all at the expense of my village. I vowed to always make sure to never repeat that, and always put the people first."

Lightning looked over the Pulsian as she told her story, realising she'd never really asked about Fang's past. The pinkette had joined a gang out of a necessity to escape, whereas Fang joined one out of a necessity to survive. With her experience growing up with the Valefor gang, they were all in it for themselves, whereas everything Fang did was about restoring the Warrens, helping the people.

"Vanille wanted to study, to go to school and find a better way to make coin. I paid for it all, to at least let one of us live a better life. When I found out she'd gotten into the Psicom-backed school in Academia, I was livid. I thought it was her way of taking the moral high ground after everything I'd done. We didn't speak for years, as I spiralled deeper into the messed up shit the Oerban Port Runners had me doing for them."

Serah thought about that divide, glancing at her sister's face. Lightning wore a curious expression, and she realised this must be the first time the elder Farron was hearing this story as well. She didn't want any moral complexities to be the cause of any rift between them, and Serah began to wonder whether her aversions to NORA were either causing, or exacerbating her sister's issues.

"How did you get out?" Lightning asked, thinking back on her own bloodied exit from the Valefor crew, and hoped it hadn't come to that for Fang, given the already strange parallels with their respective lives.

"Simply a chance meeting with Sazh. He took me out from the Runners, out from Oerba and brought me here to Eden. He was kind, caring, everything I hadn't had outside of 'Nille. He learnt about my heritage and helped me with the first rites of my clan, which as an orphan I never got to perform. I learnt of the Hunter's Way, the Creed my parents followed. He even took the rites himself and applied the tenants to the work we were doing here in the Warrens."

Fang looked over at Serah and nodded towards the elder Farron. "It's not about whether or not I will fault her if she stops with all of this, it's about whether you will if she continues." She said pointedly as she scratched at her head. Serah's eyes widened and she looked to her sister, who was deliberately avoiding her gaze with a trembling lip.

The brunette suddenly sat up, and stared at them both. An idea formulated, one that would hopefully resolve her partner's ongoing struggles. The younger Farron fidgeted under the scrutiny, and even Lightning was raising an eyebrow at the slow smile spreading across the Pulsian's face.

"I want you to join us, Serah. Officially." Fang said firmly, grinning widely. Both Lightning and her sister stared incredulously at her, certain she'd gone mad.

"Are you kidding m-"

"Hush. I'm not asking you to go down and shoot anyone kiddo, not everyone here is involved in our more…. Borderline activities." Fang huffed with a roll of her eyes. "Lebreau just runs the bar over in Central. Plenty of prospects actually only work in businesses here in the Warrens. You don't pledge yourself to me when you join NORA, you pledge yourself to the people. The law has failed us. We protect them, we help them thrive. The only people that are paying the price are those that put them in this position in the first place." She paused, and took Serah's hand, holding it to her sister's heart. "I'm not asking you to swear fealty to the gang. It isn't blood in, blood out. I'm merely asking that you keep doing what you're doing. Do right by the people of the Warrens and love your sister no matter what path she takes. But do it as a part of this family, a part of your family."

Serah knew the underlying meaning behind Fang's request. It would be an acceptance of things, and especially of Claire. She had been struggling herself over the last while, trying to marry up the illicit activities with the positive outcomes they've brought. Her eyes trailed up to see the elder Farron's brilliant blue eyes staring lovingly at Fang. The happiness she saw in them was something she hadn't seen since before even their mother had passed, and that was an irreplaceable gift.

Her gaze was drawn down to the scar on her sister's face, the scar caused by Psicom. A betrayal from those who had a duty to uphold the law, and a betrayal of her sister was never something she was willing to abide. The answer then, was simple. Serah moved her hand, grabbing Fang's in return and placing it over her sister's fingers. "Of course I will."

Lightning's eyes lit up and Fang grinned, patting the younger Farron on the back. "Welcome to NORA, kiddo."

"No matter what path you take Claire, I am always with you." Serah said quietly as she saw the first of many tears begin to fall from her sister's face. The trio stayed close while overlooking the caverns, neither Fang nor Serah willing to let go of Lightning as she cried, relieving herself finally of a decades long burden.

"So, a slight problem appears." Hope started, once Fang, Lightning and Paine were in the comms room with him. He brought up the screens of surveillance footage in the Warrens and revealed a handful of very angry looking Behemoth kings advancing through the streets.

"Didn't they learn from last time?" Fang growled, clenching her fists. Her eye twitched from the memory of her friend being shot and she tensed immediately. Lightning slid her hand around the back of the Pulsian's neck, gently rubbing at the rigid muscles.

"It's ok, some people need a few lessons before it sinks in." The pinkette offered, trying to ease the budding rage she could already feel boiling under her partner's skin. She peered at one of the screens and recognised the man as the leader of the BK's from old reports. "Does he… Is that a flamethrower?"

The question was answered for them as flames erupted from the weapon he held. The building he targeted lit up under the assault.

"Who the fuck just has a flamethrower lying around?" Fang asked to nobody in particular, her tone disbelieving. Lightning glanced at her sardonically before meeting Paine's equally deadpan expression.

"Well you would definitely have one given half the chance, boss." The silver-haired woman drawled and Lightning nodded in agreement.

"It is true, you would."

Fang scowled and tutted at them both, turning her attentions back to the maps of the Warrens Hope was bringing up on the screen. Her expression fell as she saw the path the leader of the Behemoth Kings was taking, and checked the time on her phone. "Shit..." she hissed and grabbed hold of Lightning. "He's headed through the southern wards."

The pinkette's face paled when she realised the implications. "Serah's teaching until later today and he's headed straight for her!" she ran from the room, frantically dialling her sister's number as Fang trailed after her. The call went to voicemail as they reached the garage and Lightning swore as she got into the fastest car she could find. "Fuck. Come on Serah..."

Fang grabbed the phone from her and nodded towards the steering wheel. "Focus on driving. I'll focus on getting to your sister." She clipped, remembering to put on her seat belt for once. She scrolled through the phone and her eyes lit up in recognition as Lightning sped from the garage, tyres screeching along the asphalt. The brunette dialled the number on the screen and waited with a held breath.

"Hey sis, what's going on?" the deep voice casually floated down the hall. Fang rolled her eyes and gripped the phone.

"I'm not your bloody sister either ya goddam lug!"

"Fang? Heyyy what's going on?"

"You damn well... Etro how the hell did you manage to bag a Farron... Where are you?"

"Just waiting for Serah to finish up her class with the kids, why? Everything ok?"

Fang had to pull the phone away from her ear for a moment to stare at it in disbelief. "What rock are you living under? The Behemoth Kings are burning the Warrens and are headed towards the school with a flamethrower. How have you not heard them approaching? Or seen the smoke?"

"Oh. I was... Taking a nap. Shit. Now I see it. I'll go tell them to evacuate." Snow replied and hung up on Fang, leaving the Pulsian pinching the bridge of her nose in frustration. They continued speeding through the streets with deadly precision, nearing their destination. Fang looked over to her partner and narrowed her eyes.

"Sweetheart, how the fuck did Serah end up with someone as dense as Snow?"

Lightning ground her teeth as she dodged in and out of traffic. "Don't even ask."

By the time they pulled up to the school, it was already on fire. The two leapt from the vehicle and into the path of a huge truck that held a few jacked up Behemoth Kings ready to cause some damage. Fang nudged the pinkette in the direction of the school. "Go! I'll fend these fucking roid ragers off. Go find your sister and the kids!" she shouted, unloading her gun straight through the windshield of the brute's car.

Lightning nodded and ran into the school, shielding her face as best she could from the smoke and the heat billowing from the entrance. She needed to get the others out fast, before the building's structure became compromised. She rounded a corner and found Snow laying into one of the Behemoth Kings that had followed the boss, and was stopping him from trying to get any further. A feign from the larger man however had Snow brought to his knees, the BK thug swinging a sledgehammer in his hand.

"Should a known when 'ta quit, ya know?" he said, lining up to take a shot clear at the blonde's head. Before he could take a swing, he was barrelled into the lockers by Lightning tackling him, emptying a clip into his chest as he fell.

"Sis..." Snow groaned, trying to catch his breath. "Serah... We got separated. Told her to take the kids... I'd do what I could to hold them off..."

"Idiot..." Lightning replied, but there was no menace in her voice. He'd been willing to potentially sacrifice himself to see her sister safe. She couldn't be mad at him. "Fang is out front. Get to her. I'll keep going and find Serah."

Snow simply nodded as he stood on shaky legs, too winded to reply. She patted him on the shoulder and continued on, hopeful he'd regain enough momentum to keep going. She moved her way deeper into the school, stepping over debris and coughing as the smoke scratched at her lungs.

Gun shots rang through the corridors and it made Lightning's blood run cold. She sprinted the rest of the way, to find the bodies of a few Behemoth Kings laid out, with precise bullet wounds. She frowned in confusion. Who else could be in here after them? Unless…

"It's cute how you think you can protect these children." A gruff voice was heard and Lightning pulled out her gunblade on instinct.

"You're not coming any closer to them! Stay back!" Serah's voice cut through the roar of the fire, and Lightning could just make out the familiar pink hair through the flames. She saw the gun her younger sister held in her hand and realised that the thugs laid out further back were Serah's doing. Lightning's heart clenched in worry and sadness, her hopes that her sibling could have avoided this life dashed through the barrel of a gun.

"What are you going to do exactly? You are a spectacular shot but you haven't been counting. You're out." The tall, blonde man growled and stalked towards the younger pinkette. He backhanded her, sending her crashing to the floor. Lightning saw red and extended the blade on her weapon. She leapt through the fire with the fury of a Valkyrie, yelling with rage as she slashed the blade down on the man's face, putting a wicked slice on the right side that narrowly missed his eye.

He fell back, clutching at his head and he roared angrily. Lightning ran to her sister's side and helped her up. "Claire… I…" Serah whispered, grabbing at the collar on her sibling's shirt.

"I know Serah, I know. You did well. Get the kids out of here. I'll handle this." Lightning replied solemnly, nudging her in the other direction to an exit. The elder Farron turned towards the man and sneered at him.

"Looks good on you. Seifer, right? Tell me, what brings a steroid dosed junkie like you to this part of the Warrens? Setting fire to a school.. Are you kidding me? That's low, even for you." Lightning growled, her grip tightening on her blade.

She had read all about the brutality that this particular leader had exacted on the community in NORA's absence, even on his own gang from reports while in the GC. He was ex-military, dishonourably discharged for endangering his squad during a routine mission that went to hell.

He fell in with the Behemoth Kings and rose through the ranks as their prize enforcer, until the former leader found himself on the receiving end of Almasy's fists. Still, those fists had harmed Serah, and Lightning would be damned if she was going to let that go unpunished. As she saw the last of the kids disappear from sight, she lifted Blazefire and pointed it at him.

"Today seems as good a day as any for you to die, Almasy."

The man laughed and shrugged off his jacket, revealing a hilt with his own sword. "I love battles. I fear nothing."

In a flash he drew his own blade and rushed the pinkette, slamming against her with brute force. Her shoes skidded along the linoleum floor as she attempted to hold him back. Ducking and manoeuvring herself away from his assault, Lightning spun to slash at his back as he fell forward. Faster than she anticipated, Seifer swung back around and smashed his blade against hers, sparks flying from the metal clashing together.

She parried as best she could, dodging and weaving from his pressing onslaught. Lightning had speed on her side but Seifer had strength, far surpassing anything she'd previously dealt with. He wore a manic grin on his face, clearly lost in the battle. The pinkette knew his strategy was to just keep going, keep her on defence until she was worn down. Trouble was, his plan was working. He was relentless and she was exhausted, the smoke clogging up the air and making it hard to breathe.

With one final push he managed to get an opening, pressing his boot into her torso and kicking hard. Lightning flew back into the wall and crumpled with a cry of pain. Seifer strutted over, triumphant in his victory as he hefted his sword in front of her face.

"I'd return the favour but it looks like someone already got to you first." He chuckled, waving the tip of the blade just in front of the scar. "Any last words?"

A gunshot rung out, cracking through the hall with a thunderous noise. Both of them flinched, and Lightning stared in disbelief at the red patch growing from his chest. Seifer looked up in confusion as Serah came into view from the smoke.

"Sure," The younger Farron said with an ice cold voice, "Don't touch my sister."

The Behemoth King himself fell to his knees and shook his head, still seemingly unwilling to believe that someone had gotten the drop on him. He narrowed his eyes at the older pinkette still on the ground.

"There's more of us… Than you think…" He whispered before collapsing, never to get up again. Serah lowered the weapon after confirming that he was dead and raced over to her sister's side.

"Sis, are you ok?" She said, frantically checking her over. Lightning grabbed at her sister's wrists and pulled her close.

"Serah.. I'm so sorry… I.." a hand over her mouth muffled any further apologies.

"I'm not. I know what Fang said, I know what you said. But I don't regret what I did. It was him or you. The choice was, and always will be simple. I will always choose you." Serah said firmly, brushing the hair from her sibling's eyes. "I will always choose you." She stood and pulled Lightning up, moving under her shoulder to help support her from the building.

Chapter Text

Paine wandered through the dwellings hallway, nodding in greeting at the girls as they walked past. The rescued victims from Seraphim's trafficking trade had become their own little army since being freed, many of which took up arms to destroy the gang without a second thought. Some had gotten wind of the rumours of the Fal'Cie referring to Fang as the World Ender and the girls began to refer to themselves as the Demons of Ragnarok, a stark contrast and direct middle finger to the Seraphim. Paine chuckled to herself, liking the moniker they were going by and couldn't help but wonder if a rebranding was in order.

With the destruction of the Children of Etro, NORA had been moving out across Eden to take over any established businesses, outposts and territories to increase their presence in the city beyond the Warrens. Buildings were being lit up with brilliant blue lights, NORA's signature colour. With the remaining survivors of the Behemoth Kings either throwing down their colours and exiling themselves from the city or sheepishly asking to join, the Fal'Cie was becoming hard-pressed to find allies within Eden.

The HQ had effectively become a self-contained city, that if worst came to worst could be locked down with enough supplies for its inhabitants to survive for months. The sprawling network of tunnels had all been completely renovated, and the old buildings that had been buried beneath the city streets all now serving as clean, comfortable apartments for those who wanted to stick around and had no homes themselves.

Paine was making her way to the interrogation room to talk to one of the aforementioned gang members who was looking to provide intel, a woman she had had dealings with in the past who was often of few words. Nobody ever figured out if it was because she didn't speak Nova Chrysalian or if there was an impediment there. It didn't matter. She was still intimidating to deal with regardless.

The woman sat in chains at the table as Paine entered the room, pulling up a chair to observe. The former Behemoth Kings lieutenant looked up through her similarly silver-grey hair and red-hued eye, the other completely shut from the horrible scars across the top of her face.

"Here, thought you might want this back." Paine offered, handing the woman her eye patch she had been relieved of upon entering, to make sure nothing was hidden beneath it.


"So, Fujin right? Why come to us now?"

The grizzled woman glared at the NORA lieutenant for the briefest of moments, before lowering her eye to the table she was sat at.


"Yeah, we know you lost. And lost bad might I add." Paine drawled, folding her arms. The red eye snapped up at her in anger, grief written on her face.


Oh. That kind of loss. Paine stayed silent for a moment, feeling sorry for the woman despite everything. "Why the Behemoth Kings? Was it because of Seifer and Raijin?"

Fujin glanced at the door and back at the chains, twisting her wrist around slowly to inspect them. The metal clanked across the table as she leant back in the chair and huffed.

"... Yes. Friends. Followed." She said a little quieter. "Fal'Cie. Twisted. Broke Seifer. Broke Raijin. Drugs. Couldn't... Abandon."

"And you'd willingly join us, knowing one of ours killed Seifer and Raijin?" Paine asked, watching the one-eyed woman's hands shaking slightly. "How do I know you wouldn't just put a bullet in her back the first opportunity you got?"

"No. Not responsible. Burning school! Couldn't... Support. Stayed behind. NORA, innocent. Fal'Cie, responsible."

A surprisingly pragmatic response all things considered. Paine tapped her fingers against her lips as she leant forward and pondered the woman. "What's your thoughts on the Fal'Cie?"

The fury returned to the red-hued gaze. "RAGE."

"Good enough for me. Can't promise anything Fujin, but I'll talk with the boss and get her thoughts. You'll stay here until I can confirm anything. The others that were with you. Will they fall in line?"

Fujin shrugged her shoulders and for the first time gave a bit of a smirk. "They're idiots… If I tell them to fall in line, they'll do it."

There was a shared moment of laughter between the women, understanding completely. Maybe there wasn't a language barrier at all, and Fujin just preferred to be direct. Paine excused herself with an offering to send someone round with sustenance and left the room. She planned to go talk with Lightning and Fang about the ex-BK's request but first, she wanted to make a detour to check in on Yuna.

"Hey Light," Rygdea greeted the pinkette with a lazy salute as he entered the lobby of HQ. Lightning was reading a book, lounging on the couch while the others were out on patrols and errands. She had been enjoying the peace for five minutes when she'd received a call from her former handler, who sounded a bit worse for wear.

She closed the book and swung her legs off the couch, standing to greet him with a clasp of their wrists. "Good to see you, Rygdea. How goes the hunt?" Lightning asked, seeing the immediate pained expression on his face. "Damn... When?"

"Found his body about a week ago. Wanted to tell you in person though." He sighed, staring idly at their surroundings. The pinkette clenched her jaw and fought down the mixed emotions at the revelation. While she didn't know Cid very well, he was essentially the catalyst that got her both out of the gang life... and subsequently back in.

"At least... We can take solace in the fact that he wasn't Fal'Cie..."

Rygdea made an unimpressed noise in the back of his throat but otherwise said nothing. Lightning motioned to a passing prospect and he nodded, racing off behind the nearby counter and returning with a couple of cold beers. She thanked him and passed one over to the ex-Psicom officer, who smiled gently and gratefully took the beverage.

"To one crazy fucked up year, hey Farron?"

"Hah. I'll drink to that."

They took a long drink and relaxed back on the couch. Lightning looked her old handler over and frowned. He looked weary, lost and broken. Aside from the warning phone call she'd received from him about Noel a few weeks back, she'd not heard from him. Understanding that there was a degree of having to go to ground to keep Psicom and the Fal'Cie off him, but still.

"Hey, when was the last time you took a break?" she asked, observing his defeated posture. "I mean it, you look like you've barely slept since I last saw you."

He laughed, the sound somewhat bitter. "I'm definitely overdue."

Lightning gestured to the place around her, looking at him firmly. "You know you're always welcome here. There's even a small apartment complex down in the barracks section that Bartholomew's contractors helped clear out. There's space for you to rest, breathe…. Grieve…"

Rygdea's eyes snapped up to hers, the pain in them unmistakable. She'd seen the same look enough times in the mirror over the years. "How long had you two known each other?" She asked quietly, reaching for his hand. He swallowed hard and looked away.

"We grew up together, actually. Same town, same school. We applied at the same time. Cid was always… Better with following orders than I was. But still. We were brothers in arms. Dreamers. We were always looking to change the world, the two of us were nicknamed The Calvary in the Academy. Wherever he went, I came as part of the deal. Even though he was promoted way above me, he still found ways to involve me in projects and operations."

The pinkette looked on in sympathy and squeezed his hand. "We make our families where we find them, don't we? I'm sorry that you lost him. He was a good man."

He smiled sadly and took another swig of his beer. "He told me about you. About the deal he cut when you were still a teenager, and that he was involving you in the op. He knew that you'd be perfect because of your past, even though it carried the highest risk of assimilation. He said that… No price was too high to change the world. I didn't like it. But I guess, all things considered, it's worked out for the better." Rygdea said, gesturing with a nod in the direction of the doorway where a certain tall brunette was staring at the linked hands.

Lightning suppressed the urge to roll her eyes and withdrew her hand, patting him on the knee. "I'll arrange an apartment for you so you can rest. As long as you need or want to stay, you know you've got a place here." She stood and made her way over to Fang, who had her arms folded and was leaning on the doorway to the garage. She reached a lazy arm around the Pulsian's neck and pulled her down, kissing her on the cheek. "Put the frown away, please… He found Cid."

Fang took a couple of seconds before the realisation dawned. "Damn. Sorry to hear that... Though you did have a feeling that'd be the outcome. He need a place to crash?" She said, giving him a raised hand in acknowledgement. Lightning nodded and began to walk towards their apartment, punching in the arrangements into a message to Rikku. She led the brunette into their own place, closing the door behind her.

Before Fang was even able to open her mouth there was a hand over it, with firm cerulean eyes staring intently at her. "No." Lightning said, watching a dark eyebrow quirk at the blunt response. "I saw the look you were giving us when you walked in. Don't. He had just lost someone who was like Vanille is to you."

The Pulsian winced and looked away, feeling guilty. "Oh. Sorry, Light. I don't mean to… Be jealous. I just… It's wrong of me. I'm sorry." She felt her chin pulled back to face the pinkette, who was giving her a salacious smile.

"He's not exactly my type, Fang. I prefer mine tall, dark and very, very female." Lightning ran her hands down the front of Fang's shirt until they rested on her hips. The brunette heard the distinct sound of the door locking as her partner reached around behind her.

"You don't have to worry about me straying. I've got too much of a good thing going on with you as it is. Let me prove it to you." Lightning purred, pulling on the waistline of Fang's jeans in the direction of the bed.

Fang was in her office a few hours later staring into space, looking dazed and mildly dishevelled when Paine's hand waved in front of her.

"Eden to boss… You still with us?"

"Huh? Oh? Yeah. Sorry. Was um... Somewhere." She replied, clearly still not back to the present. Paine snorted and sat down next to her.

"Lightning's wearing you out I see... Well when you've hydrated yourself, come find me in the garage. I've got a lead on that Seymour asshole."

Hearing the name of the leader of the Seraphim had Fang's full attention, and she shot up from her seat and made for the door. "What are you waiting for Paine? Harvest festival? Come on!" She blazed past the silver-haired woman with a laugh, forcing her to take chase.

"Pulsian menace.." She muttered once she'd caught up to Fang in the garage. They jumped in the nearest car and screeched the wheels past one of the young mechanics. "Hey, tell Lightning we're just going for a quick burn downtown, we'll be back in about an hour," Paine called out to the blue-haired teen sitting on the bonnet of a nearby vehicle.

They drove on for a while once they'd left the underground network of tunnels, headed down to the industrial district south of the capital. They had been content to listen to the music in companionable silence, Paine watching the buildings slowly shift from modern to run down.

"So the woman we have in our custody, Fujin. She's been abundantly helpful in giving up the goods to take out the Fal'Cie. Could be useful for her to join us if you're willing to accept her. Aside from her giving us the location of Seymour, Hope's been picking up on sightings of Jihl. I figure if we can get a hold of her, make her beg for her life she'll give up Dajh in exchange for it."

Fang growled low in her throat and her eyes darkened. "If she thinks she'll get to walk away she'd be dead wrong. I'm going to make her pay for what she did to Light."

Paine nodded in agreement and pointed for the brunette to take the next left. The road turned to dirt and trailed down towards a rundown warehouse that appeared to be a meat packing plant.

"Really? This isn't cliché at all is it?" Fang drawled, drumming on the steering wheel with her thumb. "So what's the plan?"

The silver-haired woman unbuckled her seatbelt and leant forward in the seat. "For the most part it really does appear to be a proper working facility, with the workers being blissfully unaware of his back office dealings… What are your thoughts?"

Humming to herself, Fang scratched at the back of her neck and puttered through her lips. "It'd be better to wait for Light and the others. From the dossier 'Nille gave me on this lunatic I don't want to take any chances. It doesn't exactly make a good bedtime story."

She pulled out her phone as Paine unbuckled her seatbelt and dialled her partner on the speed dial. "Hey gorgeous, you got some time for a burn against the Seraphim?"

"Dunno, depends on whether Paine is going to get jealous." A voice that was very un-Lightning replied down the phone.

"Wha.. Rikku? Why are you answering Light's phone?" Fang asked while the silver-haired woman chuckled in the background.

"She was talking with Yuna about something and her phone was on the table. What's up?"

"Paine's found a meat packing plant where we might find that Seymour arsehole. Considering how unpredictable he is though we figured we'd wait for.." Fang trailed off as she saw a vehicle approaching from behind at a fast speed. "Shit! Pai-"

Her warning came too late as the sedan smashed into their car, sending it surging forward from where they were parked. Paine flew through the windscreen and crumpled in a heap a short distance from the car. Fang had still been wearing her seat belt, which had saved her from a similar jettison but her head was bloodied from hitting the steering wheel.

"Fang? Fang!" Rikku's voice yelled in panic from the phone now lying on the floor at her feet. The brunette heard the door slam from the vehicle behind her and with her last remaining strength, kicked the phone underneath the mat.

"Downtown... Trace... Us..." she rasped, before everything went black.

The first thing Fang felt on her return to consciousness was blinding pain. The second feeling was dread, as she struggled to open her eyes and found her eyelids sticky with dried blood. She groaned from both the injuries and the situation when she discovered she was bound to a chair with a bag over her head.

"Boss... That you?" a weak voice called out from beside her and relief flooded her system.

"Paine... You alright mate?"

"... I'll live..."

"I'm afraid that is up for debate." A cruel voice interjected. The tone was soft and almost warm, but Fang knew it was anything but. Light filled her vision as a bag was torn from her head and she hissed at its intrusion.

Tentatively, she rolled her stiff neck around to check her surroundings. They were in a storage room, tied to a chair while face to face with Seymour Guado, the Seraphim Butcher.

"I must apologize deeply for the manner in which you were brought to this meeting. But there is an important matter which we must discuss, which is the return of my girls." He said while fiddling with what appeared to be a bone saw. His sickly sweet, reserved voice was in direct contrast to his atrocious actions. Fang swallowed hard and looked over at Paine.

"See that? No respect these days. It's all girls this, property that. You don't own them, Seymour. They're people."

"They're cattle." He said with a sinister smile and gestured at the butchers' hooks hanging from the ceiling. He gestured for one of his subordinates to move forward, wrapping a tourniquet around Fang's upper arm tightly. Seymour picked a syringe up from a nearby tray and moved closer towards her.

"You uh... Wanna tell me what's in that needle?" the Pulsian asked with dread. He smiled and tapped at her arm, seeking out a vein.

"It's simple. Brute force won't get you to give up the girls, or the access I need. It didn't work when Jihl tried it with your precious partner and it won't work for you. She is delightful by the way, I hope to meet her soon after I'm finished with you." The pale-blue haired man pressed the needle into her arm, pressing on the plunger slowly. "So, if breaking your bones won't help, we'll just have to add some additional persuasion. If the dose doesn't kill you of course."

He stepped back and moved to the door. Gesturing to one of the guards to watch them. "I'll be back in about twenty minutes when you'll likely be feeling a little more cooperative." The door slammed shut behind him, leaving the two women alone with the guard.

"Boss... You ok?"

Fang shook her head, trying to clear the fuzz that had already started to descend. "Damn..." She noted her slurred speech and shifted in her seat as best she could. Pins and needles crept across her feet and fingers, and if she stared too long at any one thing, pulsing, changing colours patterns would creep in on the edges of her vision. "Hallucinogen. It'll at least make our escape colourful..." The whole room began to tilt on an axis, and her head followed the movement with a woozy groan.

"Boss... Fang... You still with me?" Paine asked warily, watching the dazed expression on the Pulsian's face. She fiddled with the restraints as Fang began to giggle to herself, and the guard nodded towards the door. He pulled out a phone and spoke quietly for a few seconds, before hanging up with a smile. He stalked over to the women and grabbed at Fang's jaw with a grubby hand.

"Seymour wants me to get started with you before he gets back here. Seems like the gear is kicking in well enough. You got a high enough dose to tranquilise an adamantoise so you'll be nice and compliant soon enough."

His words only seemed to cause Fang to laugh harder, swaying her head around and eyeing off the silver-haired woman looking worriedly at her. "Your face is allllll kinds of fucked up… You know that, right? It's all… flippy and shit."

The guard laughed and backhanded her. "You do realise that you're going to die, right? Tell me the codes before Seymour gets here and I'll make sure you die quicker. Don't stick around for what he's planning to do to you and your friend here."

Fang whooped and cackled from her spot in the chair, before quietening down with tiny chuckles and motioned to him with her head. "I'll tell you alllllllll the secrets…Seeeecrets. That's a great word. It's all… Secretive. BUT. But. Buuuuut… You gotta… You gotta come.. Mnhf... closer."

"Ha," The guard took a step back and folded his arms in amusement. "You think I'm that stupid to come within headbutting range?"

Fang smiled dopily and giggled. "That's a-okay sweetheart…. I'll… I'll just… Come to you..." Before the guard could even register the movement, The Pulsian ripped herself free of the binds and leapt onto him, snapping his neck in one savage motion. She stood up on shaky legs and dusted herself off in an over-exaggerated fashion. She staggered over to Paine and began to untie the ropes.

"How. The hell. Are you even standing?" The silver-haired woman asked, the disbelief evident in her voice. Fang shrugged as she got the last of the bindings free and helped Paine to her feet.

"Part of the trials for The Hunter's Way when you're... Old enough. They take you into the middle of a forest, dose you up with a shiiiitload of hallucinogens and leave you to find your way out. This… This isn't my first rodeo… But oooh this horse is a fighty one! Haha… Fighty…" Fang giggled some more and stumbled, with Paine now being the one to help her up.

They made their way to the doorway, after stripping the guard of any useful weapons. Paine ended up with the gun and Fang had discovered a boot knife that she was currently waving about in the air like a plane. "Must you?" The silver-haired woman complained with a roll of her eyes. "We don't even know how we're going to get out of here in one piece, let alone with you tripping like a lunatic."

"Heyyyyyyyyyyyy. Heyyyy. Hey. Give me some credit Dr P. I stashed the phone before I blacked out. Calvary will be here shortly." Fang replied as she pressed her bruised face against the cold steel door and hummed with contentment. "God that feels good."

Paine opened the door slowly, pushing the brunette off it gently. She worried her lip at the situation they found themselves in, as well as what was likely waiting for them on the other side. Not just a slaughterhouse filled with Seraphim, but what would likely be an enraged Lightning and Rikku if they were on their way. She tightened her grip on the gun when she spied two guards nearby and motioned for Fang to follow her.

Instead, the Pulsian loped along with a hunched back, staying low to the ground to not attract attention. She leapt onto the back of one of the guards and stabbed him in the neck before spinning him into his companion. Another quick slash of the knife and the other Seraphim was down as well. Fang crouched on her haunches as she fished the gun from the body and handed it over to Paine.

"Uh… Boss… Are you sure you're ok?"

Fang shook her head and rubbed at her eyes, baring her teeth at the shadows. "I… Feel weird. This isn't… A normal trip. Something's… Wrong…" True enough, she felt her thoughts slowing down in contrast with her heart rate speeding up. Every time she tried to shake it off the feeling grew deeper, as if it were leeching into her very bones.

Paine looked up as she heard gunshots in the distance, somewhere else in the building. "Sounds like the Calvary has arrived, boss." She said, only receiving a grunt in response. "Uh, boss?"

"Paine? Do… Me a favour… Shut up… And move..." Fang growled in warning, and the silver-haired woman hushed herself and moved forward. The two women moved through the complex, Paine shooting at any Seraphim that appeared in her path while Fang became more progressively non-communicative. A few times she lurched forward and savagely slashed at the thugs guarding the slaughterhouse, the brutality of it catching Paine off guard.

"Are you enjoying my little cocktail, Oerba Yun Fang?" Seymour's voice suddenly cut through the din of grinding machines and whirring blades from the processing floor below. "It's a special recipe, that I call Apex. It's designed to shut down all the higher faculties of your brain, leaving you a drooling mess that will only respond to the most basic of commands."

Paine looked from where the voice was coming from over to Fang, there was nothing drooling about her. "Yeah well, I think you might have needed to reassess your dosage because all you've done is made her want to kill you a lot more painfully than before." She called back from their position over the railing. As if responding in agreement, Fang bared her teeth and snarled.

The door at the back was opened and a handful of Seraphim entered the floor, immediately opening fire. The barrage of bullets pinned the two women behind the steel covering on the raised platform, unable to move either side without being shot. Paine found herself out of bullets, still wounded and bleeding from the crash and her friend very quickly losing coherency. All in all, a not so great day as far as the silver-haired woman was concerned.

The side door swung open and Paine flinched, preparing for the worst. Instead, a familiar tanned blonde slid across the floor and crashed into her, before opening fire in retaliation over the railing.

"You and I are having SUCH WORDS when we get home… Going off on your own? Yna oui ehcyha?" Rikku snapped with equal parts anger and relief as she wrapped her arms around the silver-haired woman and kissed her.

"E ys cu kmyt du caa oui." Paine replied, holding onto her with a groan as the blonde pressed into her bruised ribs. "Where's Lightning? We have a… Mild problem." She said quietly, nodding towards Fang.

"The hell is wrong with her?" Rikku asked with concern, watching how twitchy and dissociated their friend was.

"They drugged her. Given her some kind of acid that… I dunno. Takes over the brain to only respond to the basics. She's getting unpredictable."

"… Cred… Lightning, did you hear that?" Rikku asked, tapping her ear where the comms device sat.

"Give me a second Rikku."

The other door downstairs opened beneath them and Lightning came bursting through, opening fire on any Seraphim that moved in her line of sight. She slid over one of the conveyor belts, ignoring the blood and gore that plastered her jeans in muck, kicking out the teeth of a thug who had scrambled for cover.

"Beautiful. Simply beautiful!" Seymour cried out from his hiding place behind cover. "Your rage is magnificent to watch, Claire Farron. I hope to take it from you." He breathed, positively overjoyed at the display of violence. Lightning clicked her tongue in annoyance and quickly climbed up the ladder to where the others were hidden on the raised platform.

"Light, watch yourself, I don't know about how Fang's overall… State… Is doing.." Paine warned as she approached. Lightning ignored her and gripped at Fang's head, stroking the skin on her face. She heard the brunette whimper and press closer into her hands, as her eyes fluttered open.

"You still with us?" Lightning asked quietly. Fang's eyes were unfocused, and she didn't respond. They rolled back into her head as a guttural sound escaped her throat. "What the hell did they do to her?" she hissed. The Pulsian reacted to the sound, pressing forward and nuzzling into the crook of her neck with a whine. Paine shook her head and gestured in the direction of Seymour.

"Apparently it's some new concoction of drug. A hallucinogen called Apex. Some weird hybrid of tripping with a truth serum of sorts. It was supposed to sedate her, instead, she went on a rampage through the facility as she progressively got worse. Seymour said it was meant to shut the higher faculties off, make her only respond to basic commands."

Lightning thought about the situation for a moment, before grabbing Fang by the jaw and forcing her gaze. "Focus." She said firmly, watching the pupils suddenly shrink and the glazed look vanish. While she still looked completely out of it, there was a flash of recognition in her eyes that brought some relief to the pinkette. "There you are… You're still in there somewhere, aren't you? Fang, do you want to hunt?"

The Pulsian immediately perked up at the last word and growled in agreement. Before anyone could move, Fang took off like a shot, leaping over the railing and straight into the fray. "Etro… You weren't kidding were you, Paine?" Lightning said with a frown, surveying the carnage her partner was rapidly leaving in her wake.

Her movements were savage as Fang ploughed through the Seraphim, all the while becoming more enraged at the manic laughter coming from behind the plexiglass Seymour hid behind. With the last Seraphim member dead on the floor, Lightning had finally caught up with Fang who was pacing restlessly outside of the room Seymour had locked himself in.

"Seems we're at an impasse, Guado. Tell me how you think you're getting out of there alive when you're trapped?" Lightning said with a twitch of her lips, sneering at the leader in his self-imposed cage. He merely grinned and picked up a remote, holding it against the window.

"Not necessarily. The thing about the drug is that one of the main benefits is over-stimulation causes a… Desired effect." He replied with a smug expression, pressing the button on the remote. A high-pitched feedback screeched through the speakers on the processing floor, and Fang grabbed at her ears with a pained scream.

"Fang!" Lightning rushed forward to help her but was immediately thrown back by the snarling Pulsian. Her pupils were dilated to the point of her eyes looking almost completely black. Gone was any semblance of recognition, and she lashed out at the pinkette in a blind rage. She brandished the knife and started slashing rapidly at the air in front of her, advancing on Lightning with astonishing speed.

Drawing deep from her years of training and desire to survive, Lightning twisted and slid out of the way of every aggressive swipe from Fang, looking frantically for any opening to get the knife away from her. She couldn't let her partner gain any ground. She knew the brunette wasn't of sound mind, but it still didn't stop her from being angry. She blocked several aggressive blows and returned them in kind, throwing speedy jabs wherever she could to try to force her partner back.

Rikku watched from the railings up top and bit her nails in worry. She flinched as she saw Fang finally get a shot in, slicing Lightning clean across the arm. "Cred Paine… Fang is going to kill her if we don't do something…"

The silver-haired woman leant over the balcony and looked for something to throw. They were moving too fast for her to try to shoot around them. Suddenly, with clarity, she realised there was something she could do. "Light! Get her closer to us!" She yelled out, and the pinkette nodded while clutching at her arm. She slid underneath a conveyor belt and raced towards the railing with Fang hot on her heels.

As soon as they'd gotten close enough, Paine stuck her fingers in her mouth and whistled as loud as she could. The shrill, piercing noise assaulted Fang's ears, and she clutched at her head with a snarl. There was Lightning's opening. She rushed forward and socked Fang clear in the jaw, taking the Pulsian to the ground. Lightning pinned her arms underneath her and knelt on her back to keep her in place. She put a hand on the back of Fang's neck and held her firmly.

"Yield." She snapped, holding on tighter the more the brunette thrashed around beneath her. Lightning dug her nails into the tanned skin at her throat and leant forward to growl in her ear. "Down, Fang."

Almost immediately she felt the brunette go slack under her fingers and heard a quiet whimper from underneath her. "Easy now, I've got you. Come on. Come back to me, Fang." Once she was certain her partner was calm enough and mostly back to her senses, she got up and helped Fang stand on shaky legs.

A gun cocking behind her drew Lightning's attention, with Seymour finally emerging from his protective barrier. He held a gun to the pinkette's head while supporting the brunette.

"A pity," he drawled, sounding bored with the turn of events. "I would have liked to have watched her kill you. The expression would have been priceless when she sobered. No matter. The codes, Oerba Yun Fang. Or your pink-haired heart dies."

Fang's eyes rolled back in her head and she groaned. The room spun far too much for her liking, the patterns and colours overwhelming her vision. She couldn't focus on any one thing, every thought that bubbled to the surface through the haze merely flitted away as soon as she tried to grasp it.

"Now, Yun."

She snarled at the demand, the sound tearing through her throat in a terrifying fashion.

"Psst... Light... Move away from her..." Rikku's voice whispered through her earpiece that had still somehow managed to stay in her ear. "Slowly, while Seymour is focused on Fang. Get out of her line of vision."

The pinkette edged back at a crawling pace and spied Paine creeping up nearby. Their gaze locked as she stuck her fingers in her mouth and pointedly glanced to the side, motioning for Lightning to get out of the line of fire. Another shrieking whistle cut through the air, causing Seymour to turn in the direction as Fang's pupils dilated once more.

The leader of the Seraphim realised his mistake too late, whipping back around to find a snarling Fang advancing on him. She blocked his arm from swinging around to fire, gripping his wrist and snapping it at a brutal angle. The Pulsian kicked her leg around, smashing into his kneecap. Everyone flinched at the sound of bone crunching as Fang lifted him with a roar and threw him down onto a conveyor belt. She found a broken meat bone from a nearby processor and brought it through his leg, pinning him to the belt as it moved along. He screamed from the pain, clutching at the wound with his one good hand, desperately trying to pull it out before the belt reached the end of the line.

Fang growled and watched as he moved towards the large grinder, tilting her head as his screams suddenly turned to manic laughter. "Beautiful... Simply beautif-"

The whirring blades severed any final words from the leader of the Seraphim as he fell into the machine for a gruesome end.

"Yeeeech." Rikku groaned, looking a little green. "Couldn't you have just shot him?" she complained with futility, knowing her words weren't going to be comprehended at that point anyway.

Even Lightning looked a little ill at Seymour's demise and cautiously approached her partner. "Fang?"

The Pulsian turned, her face lightning up at the recognition. She rushed forward and pressed herself against Lightning tightly, kissing her neck. "Fang... No. Down." The words were useless as Fang circled back around and began attacking from another angle, albeit in a more amorous fashion.

"She always did have terrible timing. Let's get her out of here." Paine drawled, limping to the exit. They passed a worker in the car park as they exited the building and she nodded towards him. "Buddy, you might want to shut this place down for a clean-up. Think your meat is going to be contaminated."

They got to Lightning's car and the pinkette huffed. "Rikku, can you drive? Fang's going to cause an accident if I am at the wheel." She sighed, prying her partner off her for the twentieth time. The other two laughed and got in the car to get as far away from the slaughterhouse as possible.

When Fang came to hours later she found herself in bed with a terrible headache. "Etro... I feel like I've been hit by a truck." She groaned, turning over to find Lightning looking dishevelled and exhausted.

"From what Paine told me, you were. We got you back in one piece, and Vanille had the medic flush your system. You've been out like a light for the last twelve hours and will likely feel like you've been swimming through setting concrete for the next couple of days."

Fang tentatively sat up and looked over her partner's naked form. Lightning smiled gently under the scrutiny and pulled her down on top of her. "So why do you look so exhausted?" The brunette asked, and Lightning couldn't help the chuckle.

"You put me through my paces yesterday. In several different ways considering I couldn't get you off me when we got home."

Several different ways... What does that even... Her gaze travelled over to her arm, that was wrapped in a bandage. Fang crawled over and touched it gently, lost as to how it got there. The pinkette looked down at the injury and smiled tightly.

"It's fine. You... It's only shallow."

Fang frowned at the bandage and saw the little patterns dancing and swirling in front of her eyes if she stared for too long. That's right, that Seymour prick had me tripping balls with his... Suddenly the memories rushed through her mind like a freight train before she could even finish the thought. She gasped, clutching at her head. Lightning shot forward and held onto her tightly as her partner shuddered.

"Etro… It was like… I was just a spectator. Like my mind had taken a back seat. Such rage… It felt like the very essence of Ragnarok had reached for me. When Seymour had let off that shrieking sound… I couldn't stop any of it. I was so scared I was going to…"

Lightning hushed her and kissed her gently on the forehead. "You didn't. So don't dwell on it. I'm still here. I'm not going anywhere."

"But I nearly-"

"It wasn't you."


The pinkette pushed her down onto the bed and settled in on top of her, resting her head gently against Fang's chest. She listened to the rapid beating heart beneath her ear and ran her hands across the tanned stomach, drawing patterns along the tattoos that lay on her skin.

"It wasn't you."

She stayed there, continuing to run her fingers along Fang's body until she felt her breathing start to slow and even out. The Pulsian drifted to sleep with Lightning in her arms, and Seymour's manic laughter ringing in her memory.

Chapter Text

Over the last couple of weeks, Fang had been withdrawn following the events at the slaughter house. It was as if she was constantly second-guessing herself, flinching at sudden movements and hesitating in crucial moments. It seemed like the Apex had yet to make its way completely out of her system. Lightning had caught her a couple of times swatting at the air or muttering about "Stupid floaty colours."

Any attempts to get through to her led to a dismissal, a declaration of "I'm fine don't even stress," and a quick retreat. The pinkette had just about had enough of her avoidance and sought out someone that would understand her better than she could.

"Hey, Sazh. You got a minute?" Lightning asked, approaching him as he worked on a car in the garage. He stood from the bonnet and placed the wrench down, wiping sweat from his brow.

"Phew. For you, soldier girl, I have plenty. What can I do for ya?" He asked warmly, eyeing off her mildly distracted gaze. When he realized she was looking at how many people were around them, he nodded and gestured for her to follow. "About Fang, I'm guessing?" he surmised a little gentler, eliciting a nod from the woman.

"She hasn't been all... There… Since the meat processing plant, with whatever Seymour did to her with that damn drug."

He hummed and watched the pinkette cautiously, thinking over his next words. "I doubt it's entirely that, though it's probably reminiscent of… Say, how much she tell you about the gang fallout that landed her in prison?" a shake of her head gave him enough of an answer. "I see..."

"I figure that you effectively stepped in as her father figure after you got her out of Oerba, you would know about whatever she's going through."

"That I do." He replied, stretching as he moved towards the back of the garage where it would be quiet and out of the way. "She always took the rites of the Hunter's Way seriously. A little too much if you ask me. When she came out of the woods after the trials, she was talking about how she was touched by Ragnarok, it gave her the strength to fight her enemies. She may not look it with her demeanour, but she is a devout of the old ways."

Lightning's eyebrows quirked in surprise. She had just assumed she enjoyed the aesthetic with the giant stylized image of the World Ender tattooed onto her back. "So the tattoo has a little more meaning than just looks, I gather."

Sazh nodded and scratched at his beard. "I remember when she got that. She said it would help imbue herself with the strength to bring Eden from the sky. I'll admit it helped, even if it was just something for her to focus on and give her that belief to push herself. I... I let it get out of hand. She became too engrossed in the fight. Enjoyed it too much. When the Fal'Cie reps showed up, at first it seemed like a perfect business transaction. Nothing changes, they get to manage the territories and take a cut, and I get to finally put my feet up. Go focus on raising my boy." His voice strained at the mentioning of his son and he cleared his throat to continue.

"Fang of course, saw right through it from a glance. I was too focused on getting out and retiring that I didn't care. It was stupid of me, considering how much Fang looked up to me, I didn't even realise until it was too late of the position I'd unwittingly taken in her life. She felt like I was abandoning her. She let the rage consume her, opened fire on anything that remotely looked like a Fal'Cie rep and suddenly sparked an all-out war. A lot of people got caught in the cross fire… We were no match for the resources they had at their disposal."

Sash sighed and rubbed his face with his hands. "It wasn't what her parents wanted for her at all, and I let 'em down."

"You speak as if you knew them." Lightning said with narrowed eyes. The dark-haired man sighed and sat on a bench away from everyone.

"I did. It's why I came for her, to get her out. Took years to find her. I got a letter in the mail, one of those if you're reading this I'm dead kind of affairs from her father. Her parents, Vanille's parents... They didn't die in a house fire, they were murdered by the very gang she wound up working for."

The revelation was staggering. Lightning gasped and her hand shot to her mouth. "Does she know this?" she hissed between her fingers, her heart breaking for her partner all over again.

He shook his head, gritting his teeth. "Etro, Light. Where would I even begin with that, especially after everything that's happened?"

"How about the top, and work your way back from there?" she replied angrily, grabbing him by the collar of his coat. "She deserves to know!"

"I already did."

Both heads turned at the voice coming from the doorway, to find Fang standing there watching them, her expression deliberately blank. Sazh stood cautiously and reached for the Pulsian. "Fang..."

"Vanille works with Psicom with full access to databases all over the world, how did you think I wasn't going to find out, old man?"

"Fang... I'm sorry."

She shrugged, looking away to focus on a nearby vehicle that had been recently taken apart for scrap. "For what it's worth, I don't blame you. I wouldn't have known how to broach that subject either, if I'm being honest. I didn't say anything because I didn't know you knew my father."

Sazh sat back and observed her, thinking about how far she'd come. Her pink-haired partner may have become a little wilder with Fang, but his long-term friend and surrogate daughter seemed to have become a little calmer with Lightning. They balanced each other out, and the love they had for each other was obvious. "Soldier girl tells me you've been havin' a rough trot with that junk that's been in your system."

"Soldier girl needs to stop asking questions about my mental state." Fang seethed, turning to leave.

Lightning leant over and pulled the brunette down onto the seat next to her. "Don't shut me out, Fang." She said quietly, calling back to earlier words said to her before everything went to hell in a handbasket. "You've been rattled ever since the processing plant. And don't give me that shit about me asking questions when I know you've spoken to my sister about my own issues."

Fang's jaw clamped shut, unable to justify a response when the pinkette had a point. She remained tense, even as Lightning ran her hands along the back of her neck, a gesture that normally calmed the wild woman. "I could have killed you." She finally croaked, her voice suddenly strained with emotion. "I had no control, just lost to rage and instinct, just like the old tales of Ragnarok. It terrified me. I could have killed you."

"No, I wouldn't have let you get close." Lightning replied with a shrug, smiling softly and slid a hand over the Pulsian's knee. She squeezed it gently, stroking her with her thumb. Fang turned to her and ran her hand over the bandage across the pale arm.

"I got close enough." She replied sadly, struggling to keep her voice even. "It wouldn't be the first time I've lost it like that, I mean Sazh has likely filled you in. I didn't even need the drugs last time." Lightning pressed in close and ran her fingers through the dark, messy hair.

"People do stupid shit when they're overwhelmed with grief; when you were looking at a future without the only man that ever stuck around was about to leave. If I was being objective, looking at my own experiences with Auron? I probably would have done the same."

Fang took a ragged breath, moving her hand down to interlock her fingers with Lightning's. She used the feeling of holding onto the pinkette to ground her, bring her into the moment. Her attention was brought back to the brilliant blue eyes watching her closely. "It wasn't you, Fang. I will tell you that again and again until you believe it. It was your grief then, and Seymour's stupid concoction now. Stop second guessing yourself when you know who you are and you know you're not just the sum of your actions. All the Ragnarok jokes we've been making aside, you're not the mindless beast of the old tales. You're not a monster."

Tears stung at the Pulsian's eyes, causing her to blink rapidly in an attempt to clear them. "You can't say that knowing the things I've done, Light."

"Fine, if you want to feel that way… But you're my monster." Lightning huffed and pulled her closer by the collar of her shirt. She grinned and leant in for a kiss. "I don't fear you, sweetheart." She whispered against Fang's lips. "I'll keep you grounded. If you ever feel like you're losing it, just reach for me, ok?"

The brunette nodded with a pout, wrapping her arms around Lightning's neck and holding on tight. Sazh sighed at the display, feeling nostalgic towards his own past with his wife and he missed his boy terribly. He stood to take his leave and give them some privacy, but Fang held him by the wrist from her spot next to Lightning.

"We're going after Psicom next, old man. You know what that means."

He nodded with a wry smile and gave a shrug. "It means this old man better go get some sleep 'cos you're about to put me through my damn paces!" He left the garage to head back to his quarters, humming to himself and thinking about what to get his son as a present when he returned. Maybe some kind of pet, like a Chocobo chick or something.

"Faaaang!" Vanille's piercing voice cut through the tranquillity of lying in bed with Lightning in relative peace and quiet. The Pulsian groaned and buried her head under her pillow, attempting to ignore her sibling. Her burrowing was ineffective as the pillow was ripped away from her head and used as a weapon to beat her with.

"Come on Claire, it's time to get up! We have to go shopping." The younger Farron chided with a cheeky grin, Serah also joining in on the harassment. A bloodshot cerulean eye cracked open and glared at her sister. The last time she went "shopping" with her sister it meant three weeks of overtime to pay for the credit card bill. There was no way in hell she was letting the younger sibling anywhere near her account again.

"We don't have to do anything. Go away. We're sleeping." She grumbled, turning over and shifting so she was underneath Fang's arm. She placed her head in the crook of the brunette's neck and exhaled loudly. She attempted to ignore them both as she pressed against her partner's skin and inhaled the spicy scent. She felt Fang's throat vibrate with a hum as she kissed it gently and the tanned arms tightened around her.


"Sssshh. Sleeping."

Vanille and Serah looked at each other, exasperated. The redhead grinned and motioned for the younger Farron to cover her eyes. Before Serah could even register why, the bedsheets were ripped from the top of them, rendering them incredibly exposed. Fang shot up with a squawk and Lightning flopped onto the bed, thrown from her comfortable position with a start.

"I'm going to bloody kill you 'Nille!" Fang growled, leaping off the bed and tackling her sister to the ground. Vanille laughed maniacally and prodded the Pulsian in her ribs.

"Well, you're awake now so you may as well stay up and come shopping with us. It's the festival of Etro next week! We have to be prepared for the Warrens!"

Fang rolled her eyes and puttered air through her lips. "Fine, but you're buying the damn coffee." She grumbled, standing and dusting herself off. She caught sight of Serah gawking at her with a hung jaw and glanced down to see what all the fuss was about. "Oh," She remarked, realising she was excruciatingly naked. "Sorry mini-Sunshine. You can blame Vanille for that though… Unless you like what you see…?" She finished with a mischievous grin.


The younger Farron escaped, dragging a giggling redhead behind her. Fang quirked an eyebrow at their departure before crawling back into bed with a very grumpy Lightning. She bundled the pale woman up in her arms and kissed the top of her head, hearing a tiny grunt against her skin.

"You alright there?" She asked with a smile. All she got in response was incoherent grumbling. "Soooo... I think your sister's into me.." She continued, waiting for a reaction in an attempt to get a rise out of her. In a flash Lightning had gone from curled up against her shoulder to pinning her to the bed with both wrists above her head.

"You want to run that by me again?" She growled menacingly, baring her teeth in a possessive snarl. The sound went straight to Fang's core and she squirmed in delight at ruffling the pinkette's feathers.

"What? I'm just saying she was taking a pretty long hard look at all I've been blessed wii-IIITH OH." Her voice ended on a higher pitch as Lightning leant down and bit her throat.

"You. Are. Mine. And I'm going to make sure everyone knows it."

Fang internally cackled as she writhed beneath the pale form trapping her on the bed. Even after all this time, she could still find things to drive her partner mental for entertainment. Not to mention, this domineering streak was absolutely delicious. "But Light, don't we have to get up and go shopping with our sisters?" She asked innocently with a flutter of her eyelids.

"They can wait."

When the pair finally emerged an hour later, Lightning was taking the lead with Fang trailing behind looking dazed once more. Vanille rolled her eyes at the two older women and tutted at them with a wag of her finger.

"Took you long enough." She muttered as Sarah approached alongside them.

"Had to remind Fang about something important. Took some time." Lightning said bluntly, staring straight ahead. Serah tilted her head to the side while she tried to unravel the cryptic nature of her sister's comment when she spied the Pulsian behind her looking slightly lost and glazed in her jade eyes. That was when she saw the big mark on the right side of her throat and the younger Farron rolled her eyes.

"Really, Claire? What are you, sixteen? For Etro's sake…"

"What?" Lightning queried innocently, though there was a hard tone to her voice that made the brunette stand at attention. "Fang didn't mind, did you, sweetie?" She purred, turning to stare pointedly. Her partner barked out a quick laugh before clamping her hand over her mouth and shaking her head.

"Nope. Nope. Definitely didn't mind. At all."

Serah walked away to choose a car with Vanille, muttering to herself about being related to a maniac. The redhead picked Fang's favourite car, the orange muscle that was picked up in Bodhum so many months ago. The Pulsian liked it because it reminded her of her first kiss with Lightning, and she slid over the bonnet to the driver's side.

"Can I drive? Please?" she asked with the sweetest, softest voice she could muster, complete with wide eyes and a pout. Lightning's eye twitched at the demure nature, trying to figure out the Pulsian's angle. She hesitantly held the keys up and the jade eyes lit up with excitement. Fang surged forward and kissed the pinkette, pressing her back against the car.

"Come ON already!" Vanille complained from the back seat, causing both women to chuckle. Fang winked at Lightning and twirled the keys in her hand that she'd managed to relinquish from her partner.

"Thanks, beautiful."

They drove leisurely from the Warrens and down towards the docks where the festival was being set up. Vanille and Serah were chatting away in the back seat, Fang occasionally watching them in the rear-view mirror.

"Haven't yet figured out if it's a good thing or a bad thing that our siblings get along so well..." she muttered, barely audible over the roaring engine.

"Are you kidding me? Together they're more dangerous than the Fal'Cie and Psicom combined." Lightning replied with a laugh.

Fang took another look in the rear-view mirror and frowned. "Speak of the devil..." she growled in warning as she gripped the wheel tighter. Lightning raised an eyebrow and turned in her seat, seeing a black SUV weaving through traffic.

"Could smell them from a mile off, hey Fang?" she asked with a sigh, reaching into the glove compartment to retrieve weapons. Vanille stuck her hand out for one without hesitation.

"These arseholes cost me my job. It's time for a little payback."

The pinkette wasn't about to argue and passed one over. She looked at her sister and Serah nodded. "I'll aim for the tyres."

A motorcycle moved up alongside the vehicle and the rider brandished a small semi-automatic rifle. Fang winced and patted the dashboard gently. "I'm so sorry baby... Please forgive me..." she whispered, before yanking the steering wheel hard and swerving the car into the motorcyclist. The impact sent him careening into the concrete barrier on the highway, sparks flying from the scraping of metal.

All of a sudden the highways exploded into chaos, with numerous black, unmarked sedans accelerating from further back. A few more motorcycles starting zipping in between traffic to catch up to them.

"Shit… Looks like my credit card survives another day... Shopping trip's on hold Serah!" Lightning called out behind her, receiving a scowl from her sister in response. The elder Farron pulled out her phone as it rang, seeing Hope's number on the screen. "Little busy at the moment!" She answered, leaning out the window and firing at the cars behind them.

"I noticed. About you and everyone else. This isn't your run of the mill police chase, Light. They're Fal'Cie."

"I figured!"

Bullets whizzed by her head and she pulled herself back inside. Another motorcycle came up the driver's side and aimed the weapon at Fang. The rider was prepared for the swerve and moved clear, only to reapproach for another shot.

"Fuck this…" Fang growled through gritted teeth and pulled at Lightning's shoulder. "Looks like you get to drive after all, Sunshine!"

"What the hell are you… Dammit, Fang!" The pinkette snapped and leapt for the wheel while her partner threw herself from the car and onto the back of the motorcycle. It skidded dangerously as Fang belted the rider over the head repeatedly until she managed to get the gun free of his hand. In a carefully balanced movement, she threw her weight forward, causing the bike to wobble and distract the Fal'Cie subordinate. Gripping him by the neck she threw him off the bike and seized the handlebars before the motorcycle overbalanced.

Lightning had meanwhile been watching the display from the rear-view mirror with her heart in her throat, shuffling over to the driver's seat and swearing her head off. The bike caught up with the car with a very triumphant looking Fang riding it. "If we survive this, I'm going to kill you for that stunt!" Lightning yelled at her partner, only getting a wink in response.

"Stop worrying Sunshine, you'll live longer!"

Fang revved the throttle and took off, speeding ahead of the car. Several other motorcycles gave chase, opening fire as the Pulsian weaved in and out of traffic. Lightning growled and hit the accelerator, throwing her phone in the backseat for someone else to deal with. Serah caught it and handed it over to Vanille before climbing to the front and sliding into the passenger seat beside her sister. The elder Farron nodded and Serah leant out the window, firing at the wheels of the pursuing sedans.

"So, this isn't how I pictured my day going at all.." Vanille muttered into the phone. Hope laughed nervously and coughed away from the microphone.

"You're telling me. Seems like they've launched an operation against key members. Gadot is being pinned down in the Warrens with Lebreau at the bar, Paine and Rikku are downtown with Sazh… Lulu is with some of the… What do they call themselves now? Demons of Ragnarok? Down in the red-light district."

We took out all three gangs that were operating underneath them. Who the hell is left to help them? Where are they getting the manpower from?"

Lightning gripped the wheel and frowned, thinking back to Seifer's attack on the school in the Warrens. "There are more of us than you think…" She whispered, repeating his final words. "Etro… What if part of the Fal'Cie takeover is that they just assimilate most of the gangs and leave the token few as a front? Their numbers could dwarf the three gangs combined!"

Serah looked towards the front to see Fang narrowly avoid a truck in the distance, and fired at one of the motorcyclists chasing her. She struck him in the back and he fell, taking the bike with him. The young pinkette could just barely make out Fang raising her hand lazily in thanks before speeding ahead.

"We need to catch up with Fang," Vanille called out from the back seat, phone still glued to her ear. "Eden has just gone mental with Fal'Cie targeting anyone and everyone that's got our colours."

Lightning cursed to herself and sped up, dodging the gunfire and traffic in her haste to catch up with her partner. She laid on the horn as she got closer, with Fang briefly turning to eyeball her precious car. The Pulsian slowed down enough to come up the side of the vehicle and waved at the others.

"So, who ordered the battalion?" She asked with a sarcastic roll of her eyes. Vanille piped up from the back seat, leaning forward a little so that Fang could hear her.

"It's chaos on the streets, Hope's getting information coming in from all parts; there isn't anyone from NORA that isn't currently under attack."

Fang groaned and ducked as a stray bullet flew above her head. "Etro's fucking Gate… I am taking these arseholes down and then you and I are going somewhere tropical, Sunshine. I want a bloody holiday."

"Agreed." Lightning muttered from her spot on the driver's seat. The two locked eyes for a moment, before Vanille's screeching cut through the moment.

"Fang! Look out!"

The Pulsian's head whipped forward just in time to see a sedan barrelling towards her at ramming speed. She quickly leapt up onto the seat of the bike and jumped onto the roof of the car, the ramming vehicle taking out the motorcycle and just barely missing her. Lightning's heart was in her throat as she white-knuckled the steering wheel, holding her breath. Tanned fingers appeared in the edge of her vision, gripping the roof of the car through the open window. The pinkette exhaled through her teeth, equal parts relieved and infuriated.

"You alright, Fang?" She yelled out the window.

"Do me a favour, keep this car steady!" The brunette shouted back over the roar of the engine. The ex-GC officer spied another approaching sedan in the rear-view mirror and looked towards her sister for help.

Serah leant out the window and shot at the car behind them, trying to throw them off the highway. The car had bullet proofing so it was ineffective.

"Mini-Lightning!" Fang called out from the roof. "Hand me your gun and make sure your sister doesn't kill me by swerving or watching the dumb shit I'm about to do!"

"Fang... What are you doing..." Lightning yelled with a warning tone, trying to be heard. The roof buckled slightly as Fang moved around, kneeling on the metal while still hanging on for dear life.

"This is either going... To be amazing... Or hurt... Or both..." The Pulsian said to herself through gritted teeth. She waited until the sedan got close enough and launched herself into the air. She barely heard Lightning's swearing directed at her before she hit the bonnet of the car and rolled off.

Fang grabbed at the side of the car where the passenger side window was open and held on tight, every muscle screaming as she held herself up off the asphalt. The sedan cornered dangerously, and she leant in with her gun and fired into the gut of the driver. The car spun out and crashed into the concrete barrier, sending Fang flying. She managed to brace for the impact as best she could and rolled with the momentum, before finally coming to a stop somehow miraculously unscathed beyond a few scrapes and bruises. Patting herself down to check for any obvious injuries, she then let out a loud holler and laughed. "The adrenaline's flowing now! Haha! Gods I am amazing."

A gunshot whizzed by her head and she ducked, before realizing it was coming from the wrong direction. She spun around to find Lightning speeding towards her, hanging out the window with a murderous look on her face. In her hands she brandished the weapon that had been fired in the Pulsian's general direction.

"Are you bloody kidding me, Farron?" Fang exclaimed, hands on her hips. "Real mature."

The car screeched to a halt and the pinkette leapt out, tackling her to the ground. "Do you have ANY IDEA how fucking much you scared me? I'm going to kill you."

"Then who would you use as a pillow and a chew toy?" Fang replied with a grin and tapped at the bruise on her neck.

"Fuck." Lightning breathed, collapsing on top of her. "Please don't do that to me again."

"Um... Guys? We still have a rather large problem that needs addressing?" Serah called out from the car, impatient and worried for the others. Lightning stood and pulled Fang up, before startling the Pulsian by gripping her jaw tightly.

"I mean it, Fang. No more stunts. You hear me?"

She nodded as best she could in a pale vice grip.

"Then we're good then." Lightning quipped, releasing her partner and stalking back to the car.

"Good... Tell that to my jaw.." Fang muttered before chasing after her.

Lebreau hoisted a mini gun over the bar and opened fire, spraying molten death into any Fal'Cie that was in her establishment. "I hope Fang is aware I am sending her the bill for the cleaning costs!" She yelled over the rattling of the weapon. Gadot grinned from his spot over by a booth and held a thumb up in agreement.

"Baby if we survive this I'll get her to buy you a new bar!" he shouted back, his shotgun booming through the enclosed space. The Fal'Cie numbers seemed endless. They needed to attempt to clear a path to get out from the bar, to get somewhere with a little more breathing room and bulletproof doors like back at HQ. Gadot was still recovering from his near-fatal wounding and felt the adrenaline tapering out of his system well ahead of schedule.

"Gadot!" Lebreau's voice called out, drawing his attention just in time to knock a Fal'Cie back before the mercenary could get a shot off. The dark-haired woman shot him an excessive amount of times, bullets tearing through him as if he was paper. "Nobody touches my man but me, got it?" She roared, becoming fed up with the situation they were in.

"Ok, maybe Fang can buy you several bars." Gadot said, running an exhausted hand through his flame-coloured hair with a huff. They managed to score an opening, with a brief pause in the swarming Fal'Cie. Lebreau leapt over the counter and discarded the mini-gun, the weapon now completely spent. As they moved towards the entrance she spied a wayward phone and picked it up, scrolling through the messages.

"Hold up sweetie, there's something here." She said, holding onto his shoulder. He nodded and kept a lookout by the door. A single text message was on the phone that simply read two words in capitals.


"The hell is that?" Lebreau queried, showing her partner the phone. Gadot gave a low hum and kicked a nearby Fal'Cie that was still somehow breathing in the ribs.

"What's code white, asshole?" He yelled, picking the man up by the neck. The Fal'Cie choked and struggled weakly before Gadot threw him onto a nearby table. "What's code white?"

"Shit…" The man coughed, his eyes widening in fear. "They've authorised… A code… White…? I've gotta get.. Out of here…"

Lebreau pressed a pistol to his head and got close in his face. "What the hell is code white you son of a bitch!"

He shook his head with a whimper, relenting only when Gadot began to squeeze harder on his throat. "It's… Dysley's end game… Plan… If it looked like… The Fal'Cie were compromised he'd… take out Eden."

"Take out as in…."

"As in blow it to hell. There are bombs all over the city… They'll… Take out most of the infrastructure."

Gadot stared hard. He cursed under his breath and punched the Fal'Cie in the head in a fit of rage. A commotion in the doorway drew his attention to find another suited merc bursting through the entrance with an angry scream. He flinched and was flung forward suddenly, falling to the ground before he could even do any damage. Fang stood in the entry and spat on the dead Fal'Cie.

"Fucking scum. You guys alright?" She asked as she entered, followed closely by Lightning and their respective siblings.

"Thanks for the assist, boss." Gadot said, clasping at Fang's wrist in a relieved greeting. "We've got a problem. A big one."

"I'm bloody aware of that Tzu, tell me something new!"

Lebreau was reloading her weapon in the back of the bar and on the phone herself. Gadot winced at the carnage in the bar and stuck his head out the door checking for any other approaching Fal'Cie. "Well, we found a text on one of their phones that said the words code white. It apparently means that Dysley is going to basically destroy the city. There are bombs rigged all over the city infrastructure and in the Warrens. They go off and it'll kill thousands."

"You've GOT. To be. FUCKING. KIDDING ME." Fang roared and punched the back of the booth repeatedly. Lightning was glaring at her, imploring her to calm down. "Etro's Gate… After everything we've worked for…"

Gadot looked around the streets to see everyone helping where they could, ferrying citizens out of the line of fire, providing medical attention, helping fight off the Fal'Cie. Their community had become the sight of a war zone, for too many times now.

"How we gonna shake this one, boss?" He asked, pulling Lebreau close to him to feel her presence. Fang fiddled with the gun on her belt for a moment before Lightning took her hand and squeezed.

"If we can locate the bombs and can't diffuse them, we can flush them into the waterway and they'll wind up in a place far enough away for the explosions to be contained." She said, weariness edging around her voice.

"But the waterways end up in…. Light, no… We can't…"

Gadot was confused at whatever significance the pinkette had described with her plan. "She means to have the bombs land in the caverns. It'll destroy the HQ but the blast shields should contain most of the explosions and save the city." Lebreau explained quietly. That would likely mean her bar was about to go up in flames too.

Silence descended in the room as the reality sunk in. "Sound the evacuation orders." Fang finally stated firmly, her voice only betraying the slightest hint of emotion. "Get anyone in the Warrens away from the HQ, get them to ground away from any landmarks or main infrastructure. Make sure everyone is out of the HQ, get them to take what they can, stuff it in the cars and make a break for it. Get anyone you can that isn't helping with evac to head to Lulu and help her and the girls. We'll go see what we can do about saving the city."

A car pulled up outside the bar and the resident mechanics jumped out, handing Gadot a new gun, followed by a beer once he'd holstered it. He chuckled and cracked it, taking a long drink and sharing the can with his old friend. "Hey Fang," he said quietly, watching her down the rest of the beverage and hand the can back. "Be careful will ya? We are gonna need to get royally hammered after this."

"Tch... Yeah, we do... Don't die on me Gadot, we're not going to be there to pull your arse out a second time, got it?" She quipped, placing a firm hand on his shoulder. Fang then turned and left the bar, the others following suit. Gadot watched them leave with a resigned sigh and threw the beer can behind him. Lebreau slid her hand into his and squeezed.

"Let's go play hero babe."

Lightning took a detour, heading down towards the business district while she had Vanille in the back seat scouring for ways to locate the bombs and her sister keeping a watchful eye out for any other pursuers. By now they had contacted all they could to help and Lightning had one more idea up her sleeve and pulled into the channel13 news building.

"Light… What are you doing?" Fang queried as her partner killed the engine. The pinkette ignored the question and slid out of the driver's seat, stalking quickly towards the entrance. She entered the building and strode to the front desk, placing a USB drive and her gun gently on the counter.

"Uh... C-can I help you?" the receptionist asked with a gulp.

"I need to speak with your program director. It's… Urgent." Lightning said calmly, though glancing pointedly at her gun.

"I… I'm the director.." A nervous voice called out, a red-haired woman peeking her head out from a door behind the receptionist. Lightning picked up the USB drive and tossed it to her, the program director juggling it awkwardly before finally catching it.

"I need to use the studio to record a message. In exchange, you're about to get the story of a lifetime that will make sure everyone remembers this network."

The woman glanced at the drive, then back to the group before her. "I know you… You're that gang… NORA right?" she asked, leading them into the studio.

Lightning breezed past the woman, pointing to Vanille to go set up the channels to make sure this would be broadcast across Eden. She looked back at the director as she made her way in front of the camera. "Not anymore."

Serah had gotten behind the camera to focus, and Fang watched from the side in case they had any unwanted visitors. The director came over and stood by the Pulsian, feeling nervous but excited all the same. "Why do I feel like I'm about to watch history in the making?" She asked the brunette, eliciting a chuckle from the taller woman.

"Because darlin', that's exactly what she does."

The light on the top of the camera flashed red, and Vanille gave a thumbs up from her place at the desk. Lightning took a deep breath and looked into the camera.

"My name is Claire Farron. I was once a lieutenant in the Guardian Corps from the Bodhum division. I was devoted to my job, and to this city. I still am. But my loyalty no longer lies with corrupt city officials and every chain of authority in this city that seeks to undermine civilians to line their own pockets. My loyalty lies with the group that have been protecting the citizens of The Warrens that you all know as NORA. By the time this broadcast is finished we will have uploaded all the intel we have gathered that shows corruption at every level of government, every public service. The very gangs that tear apart this city have one of our highest officials at its helm. Galenth Dysley, head of Psicom."

There were a few gasps around the studio, and Lightning took a moment to allow that to register before continuing. Fang nodded in encouragement with a determined smile on her face.

"I am a part of a bigger picture now. I am drawing the battle lines and saying enough is enough. We are no longer NORA, Dysley. We are the World Enders the Fal'Cie fears us to be. We are your world enders. We are Ragnarok. Come, day of wrath. We're coming for you."

She stared icily into the camera before pulling her gun out and giving Serah enough time to scramble away from it before shooting straight down the barrel of the lens.

Fang nudged the program director in the ribs with the biggest grin on her face. "You can uh… You can give me a copy of this right... Uh…"

"Shelinda. And you just dumped the biggest story of the century on my doorstep. I'll send it to you with a bottle of champagne. Anytime you feel like giving me bombshell scoops like this, you give me a call alright?"

Lightning approached them with a calm and professional demeanour, the one that always drove Fang crazy with lust when they weren't in the midst of potentially life-threatening scenarios. "Why didn't you warn them about the bombs?" she asked her partner while giving her a very obvious once-over

"BOMBS?" Shelinda interjected, and the pinkette held up her hand to silence the director.

"If I revealed that we knew about his code white plan he could set them off prematurely." Lightning replied, turning to the director and handing her a card with her number on it. "I need you to call me before you broadcast everything you find on the drive. Dysley has planted bombs all over the city. I need you to wait one hour and then play that recording along with whatever else you want to run about the data. We need time to try to get the bombs either diffused or away from the populated areas. If it looks like we're running out of time I will contact you and get you to run an evacuation broadcast."

Shelinda nodded with a hard swallow and scribbled down her own number for the pinkette before racing off to the programming room.

"Vanille, are you able to overload the water plant's controls to flood the waterways from here? It'll make it easier and faster for the bombs to travel down to the caverns." Lightning asked, the sadness visible on her face. She didn't want to lose the HQ or their spot either and reached for Fang's hand for support. She felt it squeezed in solidarity and smiled gently.

"Yep. I've already been making preparations for it anyway as soon as you mentioned the plan earlier. I've been in contact with Amodar and Rygdea as well, they're mobilising anyone they can trust to start getting civilians out of the populated areas. Low-key at the moment so as not to cause a panic or draw attention."

Lightning nodded in acknowledgement, impressed at the redhead's tactical ability. They hadn't heard anything from Paine or Rikku, let alone the girls with Lulu. Gadot was headed to her last they parted and she hoped he'd gotten there in time. That left them to head back in the direction of the wharf where they were originally going before their morning went to hell.

"Come on Fang," Lightning said with a tug of the Pulsian's hand. "Time to go save the city."

"So, here's a question," Rikku ground out between her teeth as they took shelter behind an upturned vehicle, "How much hazard pay do you think I can strangle out of Fang when all this is done?"

Sazh crouched beside them and let off a volley of gunfire to scatter the Fal'Cie aiming for them. He shook his head with a laugh. "Pretty sure after this you can get an entire district named after you."

Rikku beamed and lobbed a grenade over the car, waiting for the familiar, welcoming explosion. "Good. I'm going to make her give me the boutique shopping ward. All those uppity assholes won't know what hit 'em when I roll through." She turned to Paine to check on her partner, who was busy shouting into the phone.

"We're fine, Fang. Just a little automatic weapon fire, nothing to concern yourself over. Oh, the city is also falling apart, that could be a thing though… Wait what. WHAT. You're kidding… Fuck. Send the coordinates and get Vanille to trace my phone so you can catch up to us…. Ok. Yeah. You too."

Paine hung up the phone with a growl and ran her fingers through her hair. "Like this day could get any worse…" she sighed. Rikku shuffled over to her and nudged her in an attempt to comfort her. "Looks like the Fal'Cie are playing their end game, old man." The silver-haired woman said to Sazh. He raised an eyebrow in a sardonic expression and looked around them.

"You think?"

"They've planted bombs all over the city, and they're going to destroy Eden. They'll take over whatever is left and remove any opposition in a blaze of fire and rubble."

Sazh stared at her in disbelief, before sagging his shoulders. "I am getting too old for this shit."

"Fang's got the gang on the possible locations for them, and Lightning is liaising with her contacts to see what they can uncover… If the bombs can't be easily diffused…" Paine paused, sucking in a breath, "They're going to have to be thrown into the waterways, where they will end up in those caverns and detonate safely."

"But that'll…. Shit, left my favourite book there this morning." Rikku sighed. Paine wrapped a supportive arm around her and held her tight.

"We'll get you a new one. The prospects are emptying out the place as we speak, hopefully they'll get everything in time."

Rikku smiled and went to reply but then noticed Sazh's expression drop suddenly. "You ok there?" She asked him, and he bared his teeth.

"Nabaat." He hissed, leaping over the car and giving chase. The blonde Psicom commander saw him and immediately took off, not wanting to face the man's wrath for taking his son.

"Shit… Paine get on the phone to Fang, we're going to have to take over on bomb patrol."

Sazh pursued the commander across the wharf, breath heaving in his lungs. When she rounded a corner he pulled his weapon out, careful not to go in blind. Slowing up, he pressed himself against the side of the building adjacent to the alleyway she ran down and carefully peered around it. He found Jihl standing in the middle of the alleyway looking furious. "Nabaat! Where is my boy!" He shouted, cocking back the hammer on his pistol.

"If I die you'll never find him! Let me leave this city before Dysley blows it to hell and I'll tell you where he is. Kill me and he'll die along with everyone else in this city."

"After what you did to Lightning do you honestly think you're going to get out of here even if I were stupid enough to let you go?"

She screamed in rage and unclipped a grenade from her belt. Once she'd pulled the pin she lobbed it at the exit before making a break for it further down the alleyway. It hit the ground near Sazh's feet and he had barely enough time to swear and fall back before it exploded, sending him shunting forward into a parked car. He groaned and stretched his neck, trying to ease the throbbing from the impact. "Definitely getting too old for this shit.." He muttered to himself.

The screeching of tyres filled his ears and a sports car came sliding into view as it drifted around the corner. It came to a halt near him and to his relief, familiar faces were in the seats.

"Sazh!" Fang yelled out as she leapt from the car, racing over to him. "You alright?"

"I'll live. It's Nabaat. She's down the alley, she knows where Dajh is!"

A low threatening growl rumbled through Fang's throat. The Psicom commander was as good as dead if she had anything to do with it. But still, balance was balance and she would give Lightning the opportunity for the first shot if she was willing to take it.

"Don't… Don't let her die without finding out where my boy is, Fang. I know you're itching for revenge but please…"

She patted him on the arm for good measure. "I won't Sazh. Did she say anything about him when you confronted her?"

He groaned and tried to sit up, Serah appeared by his side to push him gently back down as she began to patch him up. "She said that if she died, Dajh would too with the rest of the city."

Lightning frowned at the words as she stood back, looking down the alley. Suddenly she snapped her fingers and pointed at the car. "Serah, go back and tell Vanille to get on the wire to anyone currently collecting those bombs. Upload Dajh Katzroy's photo from the database and send it to them. She'll have kept him somewhere near one of the bombs as collateral."

Serah nodded and helped Sazh up, taking him to the car. Fang placed a hand on her partner's shoulder, and looked at her firmly. "You gonna be alright with this, Light?"

The expression she received in return was cold determination. "Let's go get the bitch."

Chapter Text

"Come on probey, surely you want the extra marks…"

Claire moved back until her back hit a wall. She felt claustrophobic with the trainer in her face and her old instincts flared up, the fight or flight mechanisms firing in her brain. Jillian had been relentless in her pursuit of her over the last six months, subtlety wasn't her finest suit. The other probationals had been talking about it, spreading rumours that made Claire sick to her stomach. The issue wasn't that it was another woman, it was that it was that woman. The trainer who wouldn't take no for an answer and had no respect for boundaries. She just took what she wanted, when she wanted. The pinkette got into the academy to get away from people like that, not to find out it was no different on this side of the line.

She looked away, unable to move anywhere else without putting herself closer to Jillian. "Ma'am. For the last time, I am not. Interested. I'd rather fail your class and have to spend another year in this hole than give you anything."

"I can arrange that, Farron." The trainer sneered, trailing her nails across the front of Claire's coat. "Then you'll have to spend another year with me in the same class. Again and again. I can do this all day, I have endless patience."

A growl escaped Claire's throat before she could suppress it, and felt the old familiar anger taking hold again. "Last warning Suriya. I will break you if you touch me again."

"Oh, I do love it when a girl plays rough." She purred in response, surging forward and pushing herself against the pinkette. Her lips crushed against Claire's mouth, an aggressive move that made the pinkette sick. This wasn't supposed to be how first kisses went. Not like the movies at all. No internal fire, no fireworks, just teeth smashing against teeth and a foul tongue messily demanding compliance.

The gates opened and the last of Claire's suppression of her rage faltered. She shoved herself back from the wall, pushing Jillian off her with as much force as she could muster. While the trainer was off balance she lurched forward and cracked her square in the nose with a fast jab. The crunch of bones and Jillian's pained wails bounced off the walls of the locker room, and the woman crumpled to the floor with blood spurting everywhere. The pinkette wiped her mouth and spat on the floor, trying to get rid of the taste and smell of the trainer.

"You broke my nose!"

"You're lucky that's all I broke, Suriya." Claire growled in response, picking up her bag and walking out of the locker room.

"I'll see to it you're expelled by the end of the day, Farron! You're finished!"

The hand that appeared on Lightning's waist made her flinch, but she relaxed as soon as she looked down and saw the familiar tattooed fingers. "Sorry, just… Remembering." She muttered, moving ahead once she'd shaken herself from her memories.

"Oh… Of… The compound?" Fang asked hesitantly, running her hand down the pinkette's back.

"No, of the time Nabaat kissed me and I broke her nose."

Lightning felt the hand retract for a moment before returning. "I hope you were thinking of the second half of that rather than the first…" Fang grumbled, sliding up to a dumpster in the alley for cover. She peered over the top of it carefully, spying the blonde commander further down the alley, closer to the edge of one of the waterways. "You runnin' out of places to hide Nabaat?" She called out aggressively, watching the woman spin around in a rage.

"Why don't you come and get me, Yun Fang? Or are you afraid I'm going to do more damage to the other half of your girlfriend's face?"

Lightning shook her head at the Pulsian and grabbed at her arm, pre-empting the reaction. "She's baiting you Fang, don't. She's up to something, and I can guarantee you that alley is booby-trapped to Valhalla and back." In truth, she wanted to tear down the alley and beat the commander within an inch of her life herself, but she knew enough from her dealings with the trainer that she was calculated, devious and a dangerous woman when backed into a corner.

"Is that you, Lieutenant Farron? Back for another round sweetheart? I always knew you liked to play it rough."

The pinkette ground her teeth in her head and tensed every muscle in her body for a few seconds, then released. "She's just trying to bait us. She's just trying to bait us." She repeated through gritted teeth. Fang reached over and massaged the back of her neck, trying her best to push the tension out.

"What are your thoughts, love? The ones that don't involve hanging Nabaat from a street lamp."

Lightning took out her phone and turned on the camera, moving it slowly out from behind the dumpster. The alleyway was filled with pockets and too many vantage points for traps, and Jihl had a clear shot of anyone coming down it. She put the device back in her pocket and sighed.

"She's got us in a bind here. Way too many opportunities for us to get caught out. She won't negotiate because we don't hold any balance of power, but neither does she. We're at a complete stalemate."

Fang frowned and drummed her fingers against her knee. She felt like a trapped animal, unable to move to get the upper hand. Unless… She peered around the dumpster again, listening for the roaring in the distance behind Jihl. "I've got it!" she hissed, smacking her own leg in triumph. "I need you to distract her. Give me time to get to her."

"How? There's nowhere you can move where she can't see you." Lightning asked, disbelieving. Fang leant forward and kissed the pinkette passionately, smiling into the affection when she felt the intensity returned. "What was that for?"

"Just wanted to give you something else to think about than that gross bird." The Pulsian replied with a wink. "She can't see me if I'm approaching from behind. I'll duck into one of the other alleys and climb along the waterway."

Lightning's eyes widened as she considered Fang's plan. "If you fall... You'll-"

"Be fine. You would be amazed at the shit I used to climb as a kid. This'll be no different. She's an ego-maniac, Light. Use that against her. If I'm with you any traps in that alley will be set off. She won't kill you until she can see the whites of your eyes. Move slow, don't bait her too much and for fuck's sake be careful." Fang said firmly, turning to creep back down the alley. She was halted by the pinkette, who had pulled her back for one final kiss.

"You be careful yourself. Remember, we have a secluded island getaway to plan."

Fang smiled her brilliant smile and ran a quick hand across her partner's cheek before disappearing down the alley. Lightning watched her leave with a sigh then leant back against the dumpster. She steeled herself against the stand-off she was about to have, trying to ignore how the scars on her shoulder and her face were burning with the memory of being tortured at the hands of the commander.

"Are you still there, lieutenant?" Jihl's voice called out down the alleyway, the sound making Lightning's blood boil. "I hope I'm not being ignored."

The air around Lightning seemed to grow denser and she had a hard time keeping her breath steady. "I'm going to give you all the attention you deserve, Nabaat. All of it and then some." She yelled out from her spot behind the dumpster. She closed her eyes and inhaled, before releasing the breath and stepped out from her hiding place. Initially bracing for the impact of bullets, she was relieved when they didn't come. Fang's assessment was right on the money after all.

"There you are." Jihl breathed, sounding oddly relieved all things considered. "I was hoping I could run into you one last time, maybe get one last kiss before we're all blown to hell… After all, I didn't get to finish what I started with your… Makeover…"

The alley was silent beyond the roaring of the water behind the commander, the noise helping Lightning keep her breathing steady. Fang should hopefully not take too long, and then she can stop this game. "Jihl Nabaat. You're under arrest for kidnapping, assault of an officer, murder and countless other charges I don't want to be here all day rattling off. You have the right to remain silent, not that you will, and-"

"You're kidding me, right?" Jihl sneered, looking dumbfounded. She raised her pistol towards the pinkette and Lightning responded in turn. "Officer Farron, thinking she's going to take on the kingpins of the seedy underworld of Eden. Please. Give yourself some credit. I've always known what you were. Nothing more than a rabid animal that needs to be leashed. You thrived with Auron. You're thriving with your precious Pulsian. You were wasted in the GC, wearing their skin while constantly denying your true self. Why keep up the pretence that you are anything more than you are? There is no such thing as the line, Farron. Only that which we seek to take, and refuse to give."

Her words were like a punch to the gut. Lightning held her breath, trying desperately to maintain composure. Why keep up the pretence that you are anything more than you are… The words kept echoing in her skull, completed with Jihl's sneering face. Her eyes flicked down for a moment when she saw Fang's head slowly appear from behind the commander, raising herself from the waterway quietly.

Jihl saw the falter, and casually holstered her gun. She toyed with the cuffs of her jacket sleeve and hummed with a smug expression. In a flash Fang had leapt up from behind her, moving to tackle her to the ground. But Nabaat was faster, in fact faster than Lightning ever remembered her being. She whipped around out of the way, causing Fang to miss her target. Jihl pulled a garrotte wire from her sleeves and wrapped it around the Pulsian's throat, Fang only having seconds to get her hands in the way to stop her airway from being completely cut off.

"Not one move, Farron!" Jihl snapped, pulling on the wire tightly. The brunette's eyes widened and she took short, shallow breaths as she struggled. The line cut into her fingers, causing them to bleed. "You think that what I did to your face was bad, you have no idea what I want to do to your girlfriend here."

"No… Thanks… You're… Not… My type… Nabaat…" Fang choked, somehow still keeping her humour despite being mere inches from being strangled to death.

"Stupid move, Jillian." Lightning snarled, cocking the hammer back on her pistol. "I was going to arrest you. Lock you up without a mattress and a thug with grabby hands. Now I'm going to destroy you."

The commander moved backwards, realising her error. She couldn't let go of Fang to get her gun, and she couldn't properly defend herself against the furious pinkette. She shuffled back to the edge of the waterway, dragging Fang with her. "If I go, so does she. Fancy a dip, Yun Fang?"

"My name's… Not… Fucking… YUN…" The Pulsian gagged, gathering her strength and yanked her hands forward, crying out as the wire cut deeper into her fingers. It threw Jihl off balance and she fell forward into Fang's waiting fist. The crack to her face shattered her nose and she staggered back, clutching at her face and forgoing the wire around the Pulsian's neck. Nabaat slipped and stumbled on the edge, arms flailing. She grabbed at Fang's shirt collar as she fell backwards, dragging the brunette with her.

"No!" Lightning cried out, rushing forward to catch her. Fang elbowed Jihl in the face and grappled with the edge of the waterway, hanging on with every ounce of strength she had. She cried out in pain as the concrete bit into the cuts on her fingers. Nabaat managed to grab at a foothold further down, managing to keep herself from hitting the water. The pinkette scrambled, grasping Fang's wrist firmly and pulled her up slowly. With a groan, her muscles strained with the effort. Her partner managed to get some traction and scrabble the rest of the way up, collapsing on top of her. Before Lightning could draw breath Fang was onto her, kissing her repeatedly and threading her fingers through the pale hair.

"We… Have to stop… Meeting like this…" The Pulsian said breathlessly, clutching onto Lightning's collar tightly.

"Fang… Composure… Please…" Lightning ground out, pushing her off gently. She sat up and eyed the edge of the waterway, as Jihl's hand appeared. The roaring water was below, and she could hear the commander's panicked breaths. The pinkette stood and walked over, ensuring to keep her distance from Nabaat's hands.

"I will survive a swim, Farron. And then I'm coming for you and everyone you love."

Lightning pulled her gun and aimed it near her hand and fired. The bullet ricocheted off the concrete with a ping, scattering dust and stone into Jihl's face. Still, the woman held on. "I'm going to give you your wish, Nabaat. You're finally going to see HQ." She watched the commander's eyes narrow and she smiled. "Unfortunately for you, it's a one-way trip."

Jihl's eyebrows raised and her attention was drawn to the growing sound of beeping coming from below her. She looked down to see a handful of the bombs the Fal'Cie had planted throughout the city racing down the waterway towards the Warrens. She looked back up at Lightning, the panic evident across her features.

"I told you I'd break you if you touched me again, Suriya." Lightning growled, her eyes cold and menacing. The commander reached for her weapon, but she never got close. The pinkette fired at her hand holding her on the ledge and walked away as Jihl's scream faded into the thundering noise of the water.

As soon as they got far enough away from even the sounds of rushing water, Lightning fell to her knees with a sob. Fang knelt and wrapped her arms around her, kissing the side of her head. "You're alright, Sunshine. You did good, love. You did good."

The ghosts of her past, one by one were falling away. Auron, Cid, Jihl… Who else was left at this point? Lightning thought she'd feel freer, instead, she felt more burdened than ever. "Nothing more than a rabid animal that needs to be leashed… Is that all I really am? Is that all I ever really was?" she whispered to herself. The Pulsian withdrew from her and she immediately felt the absence.

The slap came unexpectedly, though there wasn't enough force in it to hurt, just to startle. She looked up in shock at her partner, who was holding a calm expression. "You back?" Fang asked simply and Lightning rubbed her cheek with a frown. "Good. You are so much more than that. You're Lightning fucking Farron. The Fal'Cie are a greedy pack of arseholes that wouldn't know what it is to be human. They see us as tools and nothing more. Well, we are more. You're more. You're the city's saviour. You're the Fal'Cie's destruction. So what's say you finally let go of all these hang-ups about the line, we go end this and then go for drinks?"

Lightning simply pulled the brunette back against her and buried her head in the crook of the tanned neck. "Yuna tells me Besaid is good this time of year, and has islands with private beaches..." Fang said, hearing a chuckle against her throat. Her partner finally leant back and ran a hand down the side of her face with a smile. Lightning looked up at the Pulsian with adoration in her gaze.

"I love you, Fang."

"Damn right you do."

It was raining bullets by the time they hit up the Fal'Cie building, the focal point of the city and according to Fang, Eden's biggest eye sore. It towered over the central business district, the jewel atop a corrupt crown.

"Gods, I hope we can dismantle this fucking thing once we take out Dysley."

Lightning craned her neck to the top of the tower from their vantage point behind a huge concrete fountain and sighed. "If this code white crap is anything to go by, that tower is likely to be wired to go with the rest of the city. You may well get your wish." She fired her weapon from her spot, taking out a few more Fal'Cie. They didn't have time for this ongoing skirmish, the delays making the pinkette more aggravated as the shootout progressed.

"Hey hey, looks like the calvary's here," Fang said with a grin, pointing over behind them as a familiar van came screeching around the corner. A number of their crew leapt from the door as it came to a stop, opening fire on the corrupt police that was siding with the Fal'Cie. Gadot gave them a wave as Paine let out a volley of shots to push the cartel back.

Vanille slid in by Fang's side and gave her a quick hug. "This place is rigged to blow." The redhead stated bluntly, bringing up the blueprints on a small tablet, completely unfazed by the chaos around her. She reached over and took Lightning's hand gently and gave it a squeeze. "Serah's fine, we met up with Snow on the way here, he's got Fang's car and is taking her to a rendezvous point just outside the city limits where we've been evacuating everyone. Amodar and Rygdea are organizing evacs for everyone in the surrounds because if that building goes it'll take out the entire financial district in its collapse. The Warrens are clear, the HQ has been gutted as best we could given the time constraints. Anything left is replaceable. Oh and Dysley's still in the building."

Lightning nodded, thankful for Vanille's strategy and precision. "Thanks, Vanille," She said warmly, returning the squeeze of her hand. "I imagine that Serah would have protested like there was no tomorrow…"

"She did, but she shut up when I told her that it was putting you at risk if she stayed because you'd be too worried about her to focus on the task at hand."

The pinkette's jaw clamped shut at that. Couldn't argue with the truth after all. She took a breath and looked over towards the door. "We don't have a lot of time, Shelinda down at the news station has likely just broadcast that message, so we're on the clock and need to get into that building." Lightning clipped, reloading her guns for good measure. Fang whistled to get Gadot's attention and was making a few hand gestures at him. He nodded with a thumb in the air and moved up towards the tower.

"Get ready to run Sunshine, Tank over there is about to sort some interference. 'Nille, see if there's anything you can find that's a little faster than that van in case we need to get out of here in a hurry."

An explosion ripped through the courtyard, sending Fal'Cie thugs flying everywhere. Gadot had just thrown an entire grenade belt into the fray, taking the most efficient path of destruction. Fang gave him a salute and sprung from her position behind the fountain. "Time to go, Light!" The two raced through the courtyard and into the building where there was still no shortage of Fal'Cie, however, they weren't paying the pair any mind. Instead, they were rushing about, seemingly in full evacuation mode.

Lightning grabbed a nearby woman moving quickly through the hall. "We're here for Dysley. Where is he?" She asked bluntly, watching the worker's eyes widen in fear. "Not here for you, just him. Tell us where he is and you can then get as far away from the blast radius as you see fit."

"T-top… Top floor. He's on the top floor."

The woman was released and she scrambled away. Fang looked over the schematics of the building Vanille had sent to her phone and hummed. "We don't have a lot of time here… We'll be sitting ducks if we take the elevator. But I also have no interest in a cardio workout climbing fifty flights of stairs that will likely be covered."

Lightning leant over her shoulder and looked at the image. She pointed to a particular place on the screen and smiled. "Service elevator for deliveries. We can access it from here, ride it as far as it will go. Looks like it stops at floor forty-five. So then there's only five flights of stairs for a warm-up."

They raced to the elevator and took out any cameras in the vicinity, including the one inside the lift. Punching in the highest floor on the dial, the duo pressed themselves against either side of the elevator, just in case of any surprise gunfire. They both were breathing heavy, staring at each other as the lift ascended, ticking off the floors at a rapid pace.

"Hey, Fang?"


Lightning took a breath and let it out slowly. "No matter what happens… I want you to know that I-"

"Nope." She was cut off by her partner raising her hand.

"But what if we…" The pinkette trailed off, fearful to voice it out loud. Fang shrugged and gave her a lop-sided grin.

"I'm not gonna die, I've got Lightning."

The doors to the lift opened and three Fal'Cie suddenly ran into the lift, one of them yelping in surprise. "Sir! Get back to the office!" Another yelled out, and Lightning could see Dysley retreating over the man's shoulder. It would appear that they intended to use the service lift to escape. Fang tried to draw her weapon but in close quarters it was impossible. She couldn't get enough distance between herself and the Fal'Cie to be able to get to it. On the upside though, that meant the same for him as well.

They traded punches and blows, the elevator shifting and groaning from being thrown off balance all the time. The lurching of the lift was making Fang feel a little nauseous, so she tackled the goon out of the lift so she could get to some more stable ground. Finally, in an open space, she was able to move a little more freely and swung both her hands clasped together straight into the Fal'Cie bodyguard's face. The blow was hard enough to stun, and he crumpled back on the floor with a groan. Fang leant forward and grabbed him by the collar, pushing her gun underneath his chin. "Is this Dysley prick worth your life, mate? This whole building is going to blow and the city with it if we don't stop him. Either call your friends off and leave, or you die here, right now."

The silence stretched out between them, and for a moment Fang thought he was ready to lay down his life for the corruption that bled into every corner of the city. Funny thing about having a gun to your head though is that everyone gives up their scruples when faced with the reality of the end. He slowly raised his hands and barked out an order at the other two, who had Lightning bailed up in the corner of the lift trying to get a shot in. They paused and turned, tensing at seeing their superior held at gunpoint.

"Stand down boys, we don't get paid nearly enough for this bullshit. Ladies. Control panel's on his desk."

The other two men hesitated, unsure of whether they should be following his orders. They looked back towards the pinkette, who had taken the opportunity while they were distracted and had drawn her own weapon. "You don't get paid enough and we don't have time. Be gone." She growled, and they stepped back to allow her to pass. Fang reluctantly let the other Fal'Cie up, gun trained on him the entire time. He walked slowly towards the elevator and joined his men. He hit the ground floor button and nodded as the doors began to close. The leader suddenly whipped his hand out, gun in tow and blew out the call button on that floor, then waved as the doors shut.

"Fuck!" The brunette cried out as she raced to the door. The circuits were fried, and there was no way that elevator was coming back up. She sagged her shoulders in annoyance and turned back to her partner. "I guess we're getting that cardio workout after all once we're done here," Fang muttered, an uneasy feeling of dread settling in the pit of her stomach. Lightning took her by the hand and led her towards the fire escape. They climbed the stairs quickly, surprised that there was no resistance from the Fal'Cie.

"Must have thought Dysley was getting out with the last of them so there's nobody else here." Lightning muttered to herself, feeling tenser by the second. They reached the final door and quietly swung it open. There was only a short, narrow hallway before a large black door. They approached it slowly and stood before it for a few moments, holding each other's hands.

"You ready?" Fang asked, feeling a little uncertain herself. The pinkette nodded and took the safety off her pistol.

"Let's finish this."

They kicked open the door together and rolled for the nearest cover they could find. Dysley was seated calmly behind his desk, a turret sitting off just to the side scanning the room.

"I was wondering how long I could hold off this inevitable meeting. Really now, Lieutenant Farron, you overreach yourself." Galenth drawled from his comfortable place in his chair. Lightning growled and tightened her grip on her gun.

"Dysley." She hissed, grinding her teeth in anger. "How could you do this? You're the head of Psicom for Etro's sake. You're supposed to bring order, protect the people."

"Oh but I do, child." He replied, standing and pressing a button at his desk to arm the turret. It sprung to life and aimed towards the two hiding behind the pillar. It let off a burst of fire, exploding concrete and marble all around them. They dove out of the way, splitting up and moving to opposite sides of the room.

"I do bring order. The Fal'Cie give the people what they want. They don't want to worry about the threats from baser society, we bring order through our unique… Methods. The citizens of Eden want for nothing."

Fang tried to take a few pot shots at the turret, grunting in frustration at the ineffectiveness of the action. "Aren't you forgetting about the Warrens, Dysley?" She yelled out, moving in a zig-zag pattern to escape the gunfire.

"Scurrying around like rats in the sewers? They aren't citizens. Merely ants in the way of progress. An algae-ridden stagnation atop a pristine lake. A stain on our society. Come now, World Ender, surely you see the futility in trying to protect the weak? Eden's salvation is my great legacy, and I will be damned if I see you end it."

Lightning took aim at the turret's targeting monitor and blew it out with deadly precision. Sparks flew everywhere, sending Dysley ducking for cover.

"I'll show you a bloody world ender, Dysley!" Fang yelled, leaping over the ledge where she was hiding and raced towards his desk. He leant back up and opened fire with a rifle, catching the Pulsian in the arm and grazing her leg. She scrambled back against the low wall and hissed. Lightning slid in next to her to check the wound and Fang shook her head. "Go, sort him out. I'll be fine, I just need a second."

Lightning counted the shots until she heard the useless clicking. She shook her head in disgust and leant around the corner, firing at his hand. Clearly, someone that sent others to do the violence while he sat back and did nothing. The bullet hit him in the wrist and he dropped his weapon with a pained scream. Dysley fell backwards onto the floor and tried to crawl away, an effort that was wasted due to his arm rendered immobile.

The pinkette moved back to Fang and clutched at her neck softly. "You ok?" She asked, receiving a small nod in response. Both of them smiled at each other and stood, Lightning helping Fang over to Galenth's desk.

"You think this is the end, Farron?"

"For you maybe." Lightning replied with a shrug.

Fang leant in close and picked him up by the collar. Blood ran down her arm, dripping onto his white suit. She tightened her grip and growled, ignoring the pain flaring from the wound. "Come day of wrath. Embrace thy fate, thine home to burn. Make of this day a brave epoch. Deliver the Divine, Ragnarok." She recited the lines from the old mythos of the World Ender, and stood slowly as she watched his eyes widen in fear. She drew her pistol and shot him in both legs, rendering him unable to escape. "Now, tell us how to disarm the bombs in the building and the rest of the city and I might let you live."

"It's already been set in motion, there is no off-switch you fools." He yelled, agony making his voice strain as he bled out.

"Well if this building goes, I guess you can be entombed with your great legacy, Dysley." Lightning snapped, kicking him in the ribs before running over to the console at his desk.

Fang followed, pulling out her phone and put Vanille on thru speed dial. "Talk to me 'Nille, I'm looking at a console that has rigged this whole building to blow."

"Shit. Ok, pry the panel off and tell me what you see."

Lightning was already onto it, pulling away the panelling with her survival knife. She ripped the metal from the desk as it groaned under the pressure, throwing it aside.

"... 'Nille, there are shitloads of wires. Shitloads."

The flash of a camera went off over her shoulder, as Lightning took a photo of the console. "Sending you an image now Vanille." The pinkette said abruptly, voice cold and professional given the current life-threatening situation.

"Ok... Ok... Shit, that's a lot of wiring..." the redhead muttered down the phone as she looked over the image.

"Needing a solution Bahan, clock is ticking..." Fang said nervously, glancing at the timer that had a few minutes remaining.

"Shut up! I'm thinking! Ok, ok. There's a primer attached to the left of the console, disabling that should stop the countdown. Cut the grey looking wire coming out the side of it. Do you see it?"

"Yeah I see it, cutting it now.." Lightning called out, hovering the blade near the wire and trying desperately to steady her hand. Fang squeezed her shoulder gently, holding her breath and refusing to make a sound. In one solid, quick movement Lightning cut the wire, both sets of eyes glancing over to the timer that had clicked over to the last minutes of the countdown. Nothing had happened. The timer still continued.

"Shit. 'Nille that didn't work!" Fang hissed, glaring at Dysley who was laughing from his place on the floor.

"Foolish children. There is an off-site fail-safe. If the self-destruct is triggered nothing is going to turn it off other than the master key, held by someone far higher than I. He would rather watch me burn."

Lightning stared incredulously at the broken man, still holding onto his arrogance despite the life bleeding out of him. "Higher than you? You're the head of the Fal'Cie, what could possibly be higher?"

Dysley laughed again, coughing up blood. "We are all just lowly servants..."

"Fuck this..." Lightning muttered to herself and shot him in the chest a few times, taking her helpless anger out on him.

"Fang... Lightning... He wasn't kidding..." Vanille's shaking voice called down the phone. The two women spared a glance at each other as the countdown timer didn't cease. Fang let out a shuddering breath and pressed her forehead against the pinkette. The elevator was out, and it was too late to run down fifty flights of stairs. They'd never make it out in time.

"Tell the others to get clear of the building. Hey, 'Nille, whatever happens, I'm proud of ya. Always have been. Love you kiddo. Make sure you tell Serah that Lightning feels the same way."

"DON'T YOU EVEN FUCKING DARE-" Fang hung up the phone on the redhead before she could finish her sentence. She threw the phone over her shoulder and looked out the window to the skyline with a slow sigh.

"It isn't right to let her hear it... When it ends. We had a good run though, right Sunshine?"

Lightning couldn't respond, the lump in her throat too large to speak. Fang reached for the pinkette as the final minute started its doom-ridden countdown to the finish. She brushed the pale hair out of the beautiful face she'd grown to love so deeply, the cerulean gaze looking back at her filled with volumes of emotion.

"I love you, Light. In this life and the next." She croaked, pulling close and feeling her partner for the last time. She wiped a tear away from the scar on Lightning's face and gently kissed her forehead. "I'm really, really glad you beat the shit out of that Paddra bitch."

"Fang... I..." Lightning trailed off as both their heads turned to the timer as it hit zero. The first of the explosions could be heard from the ground floor, making the whole building shudder. The pinkette bit back a sob and pressed in close. "I love you too."

At least the last thing she would feel would be Fang's embrace.

The window closest to them suddenly blew out, glass tinkering across the office floor. A helicopter came into view with the door swung wide open. Paine was hanging out the side, strapped onto the railing as she lowered the shotgun she used to blow out the window.

"Come on!" Gadot yelled from inside, waving at them to get a move on. Adrenaline suddenly filled their veins and the two took off like a shot, bolting for the opening. Fang and Lightning leapt, just as the explosions reached their floor, blowing them into the air from the force. The helicopter wavered, with Vanille struggling to keep it steady at the helm.

Gadot and Paine both reached out and caught the pair's outstretched arms, holding on for dear life. They were strapped into the safety harnesses that kept them balanced but that didn't stop either of them from feeling uneasy from the height of hanging out of a helicopter. Once Vanille could be certain they had a firm grip she moved quickly away from the fireball barrelling from the elevator shaft in the building.

Fang's grip was loosening from her arm injury, and Rikku came over to help pull them up before she slipped, grunting at the strain. All of them collapsed onto the deck, Lightning landing on top of Paine and Fang on Gadot respectfully. The pinkette ducked her head in apology and rolled off onto the floor. She barely had time to catch her breath before Fang was on top of her once again, pulling her up by the shirt collar and kissing her roughly. "Fuck composure..." Fang growled, ignoring the coughs from the others around her. The pinkette's arms immediately swung around her neck and she returned the intensity, needing her more than she needed air at that moment.

"You want to at least wait until we land?" Vanille called out from the cockpit, shaking her head as the others laughed. The two finally broke away, breathing heavily and smiling.

"If you even mention Lady Luck I'm going to punch you, Fang." Lightning warned, her tone however jovial despite the threat.

"Lady Luck?" Fang asked with a hitch of an eyebrow, "Hell no, that was all on Lady 'Nille and her superb rescue. And the rest of these jokers too, I guess."

"Up yours, boss. Next time you're flying from a building I'll make sure I miss." Paine drawled with a roll of her eyes as she climbed back up into the seat. Lightning stood once Fang had gotten off her, and held onto the railing by the door as she watched the building fall.

"Nobody in the vicinity, Amodar and Rygdea evaced the whole area, if anyone was left it was the Fal'Cie who were attempting to make a last stand. We managed to grab Dysley's escape plan here with the helicopter and came and got you." Gadot offered, assuming her line of thought.

Lightning hummed in acknowledgement, shielding her eyes from further explosions as the structure collapsed. Vanille left it a few more minutes before finally steering the helicopter away from the scene and back towards the Warrens. Explosions sounded in the distance where the other bombs were detonating deep inside the HQ. Rikku pressed close to Paine with a sad expression, watching the smoke start to rise from their home in the distance.

"Hey, Fang? Come here a sec." Vanille yelled over the sound of the blades. The brunette popped her head into the cockpit, to find a flight manual hurled at her face. "Don't you EVER. EVER. Do that to me. AGAIN. You hear me BahanMain aapaka naash kar doonga!"

Lightning's eyebrows rose at the foreign words while Fang rubbed at her head where the book had struck. "Alright alright, you made your point... Fuck's sake..."

"Didn't even know there was a traditional language in Oerba..." Lightning said quietly as she strapped herself into the seat. The brunette shrugged and sat next to her with a mischievous smirk.

"Everyone speaks Nova Chrysalian these days, but the old tongue still holds its uses. Want me to teach you all the dirty words?" she purred, holding onto Lightning's slightly shaking hand.

The pinkette rolled her eyes and leant against her partner, resting her head on her shoulder. "So, Rival gangs taken out, Psicom dismantled, Fal'Cie destroyed, the city partially blown up. What's next for us?"

Fang huffed in amusement and fiddled with Lightning's fingers. "Sunshine, the sky is the limit." She said with a chuckle, planting a kiss against the pale head resting on her shoulder. "Any thoughts?"

Lightning was silent for a moment, before prefacing her words with a dismissive shrug. "Dunno, maybe a holiday, road trip, thought we could get married..."

"Ha, yeah sounds good."

The others stared at Fang with raised eyebrows, Paine wearing a smirk on her face, clearly enjoying the show. Vanille squealed from the pilot's seat, drawing her older sister's attention. Fang frowned and thought back over the words. She suddenly sat bolt upright, knocking Lightning off her shoulder in the process.

"Wait. Did you just propose to me? On a helicopter. Escaping a building. That literally blew up?" she asked, not believing she'd heard correctly at all.

"Pretty much."

Chapter Text

The gentle sound of waves and the calling of a gull riding the thermals in the sky brought Lightning back to the waking world. She didn't even remember falling asleep. Her skin felt warm from the sun as she relaxed on the sand. Propping herself up on her elbows, she searched for Fang along the beach. She spied the brunette emerging from the water with a brilliant smile on her face, and sighed with contentment.

Fang jogged up the beach until she came to a stop, footsteps crunching softly in the sand. The black bikini she wore left little to the imagination, and that was perfectly alright with Lightning.

"Why, it's so lovely to see you awake, Mrs Yun-Farron. Enjoy your nap?" Fang drawled while she shook the salt water from her hair. Lightning hummed and gave her wife a very obvious once over, biting her lip in appreciation.

"I did. Could get used to seeing this view when I wake though. I'm a bit hot from the sun, was thinking about heading back to the cabin."

The Pulsian smiled and knelt down, covering Lightning's body with her own. "Can't have you overheating now, can we?" She purred, drawing circles along the pale ribs with her nails. The pinkette laughed and squirmed, her body being simultaneously cooled by Fang's skin from the water and heated by her attentions.

Fang leant down further and kissed Lightning gently. Slowly they moved against one another, hands beginning to wander as they explored each other's skin. "Ok, now we definitely have to go back to the bungalow," Lightning warned, pushing back slightly with flushed cheeks.

"It's a private beach, Light. Not like anyone is going to see us..." Fang drawled, content to remain where she was. A pointed stare from her wife however had her sighing and clambering off the pinkette before she got in trouble. A private beach was all well and good but when they all had to go to the wedding armed to scare the paparazzi away, Fang realised her wife may have had a point. She helped Lightning up and grabbed the towel she had been laying on, giving it a quick shake for good measure. They both made their way up the beach towards their little beach cabin, holding hands.

"So how long do you think we can get away with staying here?" Lightning asked as they wandered slowly along the sand.

Fang shrugged and rolled her eyes, "As long as we can get away with, I mean the city almost blew up while we were there, it's not like it's going to get any worse." She said, flinching as Lightning whacked her in the stomach with the back of her hand.

"What have I told you about tempting the gods, Fang?"

The Pulsian caught the hand and brought it up to her, kissing the tips of every finger. She grinned against the skin, letting her attention travel across the palm and pressed her lips against the pulse point on Lightning's wrist.

"Relax, it isn't anything we couldn't handle. We can avoid reality for as long as we need. I told them we'd be gone for a while and to only call if it's an emergency. I think we've earned the break, all things considered."

She pulled the pinkette in close and wrapped her arms around her, feeling Lightning settle into the crook of her neck. There was a peace there, watching the waves in a close embrace, that neither thought they'd ever feel. Fang pulled back and tilted Lightning's chin up to meet her eyes.

"I love you, Lightning Yun-Farron."

The smile that lit up the pinkette's face was something that Fang would forever cherish in her memories. A true, honest smile, unburdened by the sins of her past.

"I love you too, Oerba Yun-Farron Fang."

The kiss they shared was soft, gentle and full of promise. Promise for a better life, with each other whatever may come. Fang suddenly pulled back with a scowl, and before Lightning could even register the movement found herself being scooped up by the Pulsian and slung over her shoulder.

"That's it, too much mush. I'm beginning to feel like robbing a hospital to restore my wild reputation again."

"Fang!" Lightning cried out from halfway down the brunette's back, laughing as she allowed herself to be carried off to the beach cabin.

The smell of whiskey permeated through the air as it was swirled around in the glass. The drinker tilted it back, letting it burn down his throat. He placed the glass down on the wide desk and turned away from his work. Folders and reports splayed all over the place, and news footage from Eden's burning Fal'Cie tower played on a loop on the computer monitor.

The impeccably tall man walked to the window that overlooked his city and sighed.

"So, now you know what we're dealing with. This supposed Ragnarok and their precious Saviour of Eden need to be stopped." A voice barked firmly through the speaker on the desk phone. "If they took out the Fal'Cie you know they're coming for us next."

He finally left his spot by the window and sauntered back to his desk, pressing a button to end the call. A knock at the door drew his attention, and a slender woman dressed in a three piece suit hurried into the room, heels clicking on the marble floor.

"Apologies for the interruption sir, but you requested I inform you the minute I was alerted to Barthandelus' fate." She said with calm and cold professionalism. The assistant scratched away at a notepad attached to a clipboard, awaiting his response.

"Hm," He hummed, tapping his finger on the desk. "It seems the schedule is going to have to move up. Shelke, be a dear and contact the bishops. They'll need to be aware of the change in plans. Then contact my knights. Tell them to come in from the field. It's time these pitiful creatures met their Maker."

The assistant nodded and bowed in his presence.

"As you wish, Bhunivelze."