|In the Bleak Midwinter
Author: Shamera PM
Post-game. Winter on Gran Pulse is much harsher than the winters on Cocoon. But the Farron sisters have dealt with worse than frigid air and frozen earth before. Snapshot story written for Christmas.Rated: Fiction K - English - Family/Friendship - Lightning & Serah F. - Words: 2,900 - Reviews: 7 - Favs: 18 - Follows: 1 - Published: 12-25-10 - Status: Complete - id: 6590309
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
In the Bleak Midwinter
The weather on Cocoon had always been mild, with the occasional rain when the fal'Cie deigned it necessary for rain. So it was perhaps the harsh weather over everything else that made the former residents of Cocoon bitter when they were forced to relocate to the planet below. Rain came without warning, storms and thunder and earthquakes ready to rip apart their newly built cities. But more than just those deadly living conditions, there was the temperature.
Spring, summer, autumn, winter... it had never meant much to Lightning before. She appreciated the storms on Pulse. Seeing the flash of lightning over distant mountains gave her strength, more than when she had learned what the word meant. Everyone in Cocoon knew the words of the weather. They had been taught it from a young age, from reading books and viewing holo-vids. They knew what it looked like, they knew what it did.
But no one had ever actually seen a lightning flash before. Heard the real roar of thunder rolling over the land. The new residents of Pulse had been both terrified and awe-struck by the beauty that commanded the utmost respect. But their respect turned to resentment as they grew soaked under the torrential downpour and realized that it just got colder and colder on Gran Pulse.
Colder and colder and colder, until winter finally came and the land was frosted over, their breaths easily crystallizing in the air. It had never been so cold on Cocoon before, not with their land and sunlight and weather regulated by the fal'Cie. Not when there was a shell over their heads and under their lands, encasing them with ease and comfort. Winters there had been cold enough to wear a coat outside, and summers warm enough to stay in the shade. Those of strong wills wore the same clothes year-round, and thought themselves stronger for being able to endure the temperature change.
But it was nothing like the drastic changes on Pulse. The sunlight on Pulse hurt, now that people were finally coming out from their sheltered planet. It burned and peeled their skin, bringing pain to those who stood outside for more than an hour each day without shade. The nights were cold and misty and it rained plenty enough to keep the vibrant plants alive. Winter hadn't been shaping up to be good this year, and Lightning made sure to stay out of heavily populated areas lest someone realize who she was and her part in Cocoon-fall. People were bitter enough about living on Pulse, and the freezing temperatures weren't making it any better.
She was waiting for Serah inside with a hot cup of tea, watching her younger sister kick uselessly at the earth and try to save the small bit of plants she had planted just two months ago. It had been cold then, but nowhere as cold as it was now, with the ground frozen hard and the air feeling like knives on skin.
Serah came back inside soon enough, shivering and with her fingers buried in the thick scarf Snow had attempted to knit for her, full of holes and missing stitches, but Serah wore it everywhere now that the weather was colder. Her face was pale with her nose and ears bright red, and fingers nearly discolored with how red they were.
"It won't work," She complained the moment she stepped inside, kicking off her boots on the front rug. "I don't know how anyone here managed to grow anything at all- the earth is frozen over! Our freezers can't be as cold as what it is outside. I can't water the plants because the water would freeze before it sinks."
Lightning just nodded sagely as Serah spoke, well used to her sister's mini-rants about meaningless things, handing over a steaming cup of tea. Serah murmured her gratitude as she accepted the cup gingerly, holding it by the handle and cupping the bottom, knowing that it despite it not being too hot, it would still burn her fingers at the temperature they were.
"This is what they say about nothing growing in the winter, then." Lightning nodded. "We'll have to wait for the season to pass."
"That's a fourth of the year. If nothing will grow for a fourth of the year," Serah sighed, bringing the tea to her lips even as she sat down beside her sister. "I don't know what people will do. The military can't provide all the food for people by hunting. And it's cold. No wonder people hate winter."
It was cold. Cold and miserable for most people who weren't used to weather like this, and got sick easily in the world of Gran Pulse. The news had reported most people staying home the past week due to illness and fatigue, with viruses running rampant amongst cities. The simple flu that went around once in a while on Cocoon was so much worse on Gran Pulse, especially combined with many people having just received inoculations for other diseases the world provided.
"We'll figure it out." Lightning said. They always did. It couldn't be all that hard if Fang and Vanille had lived here before, and if entire civilizations had been here as well. If they found a way to survive through the winters, then they should have no problem. The news had to be exaggerating.
"At least everyone got time off because it's so cold," Serah said. She was gingerly testing the warmth of the cup against her skin now, trying to warm her hands up. "It'll be nice when everyone's over. Maybe then it wouldn't feel so cold around here."
It was true. Snow had left to pick up Sazh and Dahj from where they were arriving on the shuttles, and Hope and his father would probably get there around the same time. With most jobs letting people off, knowing that workers would be miserable coming in anyway, they had decided they might as well use to time to get together again, since all of them were usually busy at different times.
Their house had been cleaned and warmed, Serah having prepared vast amounts of food in advance and Lightning and Snow delegated to cleaning. Cleaning which soon became a competition seeing as she would always be able to see the spots that Snow missed, and he tried to work harder and harder in attempts to live up to her standards. The past two hours had been mostly Serah laughing in delight at the fact that Lightning wasn't beating Snow up for his incompetence, which only miffed Lightning knowing that she had softened that much towards her sister's fiance.
Serah took another sip of her tea. "How long do you think it'll be until the others get back?"
Lightning took a glance at the clock above the door. "At least another half hour, if traffic's as bad as I think it will be."
With everyone off work, people were hurrying about trying to visit family and relatives in the same idea that they had to gather and spend time together.
"Great, that gives me enough time to start on a cake." Serah set her cup down on the table, smiling at her sister even as Lightning eyed her carefully.
"Why would you need a cake? Serah, it's just some time together, not a party."
"Well, I'm sure Dahj would appreciate it. Do you remember when we used to make cakes together?" Serah smiled brightly. "Would you mind helping me with the icing, Claire? You were always better at that. Besides, cooking helps warm the house."
Lightning bit back a reprimand about calling her by that name, and got up from the sofa. It really had been a long time since they made a cake together... before their parents died. After that, they only had cake on birthdays and then they would make it for each other, and not with each other. With nothing to do as the cold slowed everyone down, it seemed nostalgic and she had no excuse not to help.
She could say that she had something else to do, but that would be entirely untrue.
"A cake," She said to herself, but followed Serah to the kitchen. Such a frivolous thing. It wasn't a celebration, but she supposed frivolities weren't too bad when it allowed her more time with Serah. Soon enough, the younger girl would be married away and then Lightning would have to share her with Snow. But until then, Serah was only her sister, and even Snow didn't have as much a claim to her as Lightning did. They were sisters, and she was going to make sure that Snow would be able to take care of Serah when the time came. Until then, she would be there for her.
They had barely managed to clean the counters off and rush the cake into the oven when the front door opened to the sound of happy laughter and loud voices, and Lightning glanced out from the kitchen indulgently as she saw the group enter, taking off shoes and gloves and unwrapped scarves, arms full of packages and bags. She blinked a moment to realize that Hope and Dahj were both still fully dressed, though, just dropping their things down by the pile of shoes before Hope secured a hat on Dahj and grinned up at her.
"We'll be right back!" He proclaimed, beaming. "Hi, Light! Hi, Serah!"
Dahj nodded quickly. "Bye, Miss Light! Bye, Miss Serah!"
And just like that, the two youngest of their group escaped back through the door and outside, scarves and laughter trailing behind them.
"What was that about?" Serah asked, bewildered, from where she had been watching behind Lightning. The younger sister entered the living room, tip-toeing up to receive a kiss from Snow before swatting him away, laughing. "You're freezing! You should all warm yourselves up- why would Hope and Dahj leave before they managed to get warm again?"
This just prompted more laughter, although this time from Sazh and Bartholomew, who gave each other the same exasperated look.
"Here, babe, is this better?" Snow gave Serah another kiss, this time warmer, although chaste as he caught Lightning giving him a pointed glare. "Have you looked outside lately?"
"Yeah, it looks the same as every other day the past week. Cloudy and cold. Why?"
Snow just grinned at her. "Maybe you should have another look."
She gave him a confused look, but allowed him to lead her toward the window, wiping a glove against the perspiration on the glass, indicating their house was much warmer than outside. Serah gasped and stared for a moment, pressing closer against the glass.
Lightning frowned from where she had been standing at the threshold of the room, and glanced over at the indulgent smiles of both Sazh and Bartholomew.
"You oughtta take a look, Soldier." Sazh said to her. "Might cheer you up in this gloomy weather."
"What is it?" She asked instead, but moved toward the window as well, her view blocked by Serah and Snow standing in front of her. Closer to the door now, she could hear Dahj and Hope's laughter outside, and was gladdened to know they had at least stayed close to the house.
Serah didn't answer her, rendered speechless by the image outside.
Close enough, and Lightning thought it actually looked brighter outside than it had the last time she had looked, although she was sure that the sun would soon set. The days were shorter and shorter with the cold weather, the nights longer than ever. A flash of white, and her breath caught.
Cocoon had stories, of course. Stories and words and explanations, just like with thunderstorms. No one had seen them in life before, but they had known immediately when a thunderstorm had raged through Pulse. It was the same here, as Lightning had never seen a sight like this before, but she immediately knew what it was.
"It's snowing," Serah breathed, her breath fogging the glass again. She wiped her hand against it, the coldness in the glass forgotten. "There's... but I was just out there! It must have been half an hour ago, and there was nothing."
It was true. The grounds outside were covered with a thin later of white, and thick flakes fell slowly from the sky, nearly a whirlwind of white dots as far as Lightning could see.
"I reckon we give the kids another ten minutes before we pull them in," Sazh quipped cheerfully from behind them. "It's still cold out there, pretty sight or not. Though it doesn't feel as cold as it did earlier, that's for sure."
"We can spare more than ten minutes," Bartholomew said quietly, although there was a fond wonder in his voice as well. "Let's give them enough time to finish that snowman they wanted to make."
And sure as ever, Light could see both Hope and Dahj outside, both of them working hard on trying to get enough snow to get a ball rolling, laughing as they fell into the white flakes.
"I thought it was just a story," Serah continued to say, her voice hushed with awe. "It never snowed on Cocoon."
It was like a miracle. Lightning let out her a breath herself, restraining the urge to go outside with the kids and just watch the sky dance and her breath crystallize amongst the snow. "Maybe not on Cocoon," she managed to say, and smiled as Serah looked back at her again, eyes alit with wonder that she had not seen since before their parents died. "Maybe only on Gran Pulse. Maybe only because it gets so cold and dark here, so we need something to make the nights brighter."
It wasn't something she would normally say, but it felt like the right thing to say in the face of Serah's smile.
Snow gave a knowing smile and backed away, excusing himself to say something about setting the table for dinner, even as the Farron sisters huddled closer together to enjoy the view outside. Light could hear Snow talk to Sazh and Bartholomew in the background, offering to show them around and take their things upstairs to the separate guestrooms.
"It's more beautiful than the holo-vids." Serah said, a hand splayed out against the glass.
Lightning just smiled, the expression coming naturally as she raised an arm to hug Serah closer to her. As terrible as it was on Gran Pulse... with the warmth and smells of food behind them wafting in from the kitchen, the sounds of people talking in the house, Hope and Dahj's laughter coming from in front of them, the view of snow beyond their window, and Serah right there next to her, it felt more perfect than it ever had on Cocoon.
"It might be something to look forward to every year." She said, the smile tugging at her lips growing wider as she watched the white flurries fall from the sky. "Even when it gets cold enough that half the businesses shut down, after that, it'll start to snow."
That made Serah laugh, and she leaned against her older sister contentedly. "I'm glad we're here. On Gran Pulse. Even if this place scares everyone half to death."
Lightning leaned her head against her sister, basking in the warmth and comfort. Moments like this reminded her that she had nearly lost her sister once, and had nearly lost everything. Living on Gran Pulse was better than having to live without Serah, even in the darkest moments. Even in the longest and darkest night... She opened her eyes again to watch the sun slowly go down, leaving the night bright against the white of the snow, like some kind of inner glow had allowed the snow to capture stray sunbeams and trap it within its folds, to shine through the darkness.
She breathed a breath into Serah's hair and smiled. "I'm glad, too."
AN: I had a little time today, so I figured I'd write something for Christmas- sorry about typos and some terrible construction, but hey, I put something out for Christmas! I may go back and edit this later, but this is the roughest of rough drafts, seeing as I just wrote it and then shoved it on this site. XD;
So Merry Christmas, everyone, and I hope some people out there are enjoying snow as well. It snowed here earlier in the month, but then refused to snow afterward (so much for record snowfall, eh?) so our Christmas is pretty plain. Figured people on Cocoon would never have seen real snow before, though, since their temperature is so well controlled. But there's a highlight to everything, including freezing cold. Once it hits below freezing, there's a good chance you'll get snow!
Anyone, I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and continue to enjoy their winter break~ I'll be off for Boxing Day tomorrow, but will have a chapter of Derivation up before the new year!