AN - Myr writes a short one-shot that's actually short? And it's Fangrai for some reason? O:
Anyway, all inconsistencies with standard police procedures can be neatly explained by the fact that the rules are different on Pulse. Are you buying that? Whew. Good. ^-^
Inspired by a fantastic drawing by calicojill.
On The Edge by Imrryr
The wastes beyond the Archlyte Steppes were like nothing in her experience. An expanse of sand and rock that stretched for a thousand miles in every direction. Take a turn anywhere off the main road and you were transported to another world, not a hint of civilization to be seen on the horizon, the land untouched by modern hands, the sky filled with nothing but stars.
Endless, untamed, and silent. The polar opposite of Cocoon in every way.
Her wife took Lightning out here almost every weekend, far beyond the roads and trails, over rolling dunes, and through unmapped valleys, sometimes searching for signs of her people, sometimes searching for nothing more than peace and quiet. A day spent without interruptions from the fast-paced world they normally lived in.
This place spoke to her even more than it did to Lightning, and she was sure it was speaking in ways that a native of Cocoon would never understand. To see the awed look on Fang's face when they came across some ancient pictograph hidden high on what should've been an inaccessible ridge, it always made Lightning feel a little out of place. These were Fang's people, this was their home, and maybe those links were tenuous after hundreds of years, and hundreds of miles, and maybe whoever left their hand prints on those sandstone cliffs in the vast desert were as ancient and distant to Fang as the people of Oerba were to Lightning, but Fang and her sister were the last links to those days. They were the last people who had any hope of understanding.
The thing was though, Fang shared it all with her. And if ever Lightning hadn't been able to escape the nagging feeling that she didn't belong here, Fang's constant unspoken reassurance said otherwise.
She had one hand on the wheel, the other resting over the side, lightly tapping the door as her cruiser sped along the empty highway. The hot, dry wind rushing over her skin and through her hair brought a smile to her lips. Coming out here had been the best decision she'd ever made.
Silence like this simply didn't exist on Cocoon, not with so many people living in such close quarters. The world of Pulse was infinite, and it made her feel like anything was possible, like she could take on Orphan all over again.
So, she didn't mind all too much when Snow, and Sazh, and practically everyone else told her she was nuts for moving out here, far over the horizon from where Cocoon and the spire that supported it were still visible.
Of all the people she'd known before the Purge, only Serah seemed to understand. And the fact that Lightning was giving up a position in the new government to become what basically amounted to a glorified traffic cop made perfect sense to her too somehow. Working with the provisional government just didn't suit her, no matter how much people begged her to stay.
Dealing with squabbling factions, resurfacing grudges, and petty feuds, when you had just given your all to save an entire world... it was too much to bear. It was Fang who saved her from that, Fang who brought her into the wilds of Pulse, Fang who suggested that hey, maybe they should try just living for a while.
The radio had been silent for hours. Out here, she was so far out of communications range that she might as well be on the other side of the planet. Hope had told her that it would be a matter of a few months before the first satellites were put in orbit, allowing the entire diaspora of Cocoon now spreading across Gran Pulse to be in instant communication again.
She honestly wasn't sure how she felt about that.
But it wasn't her place to worry about that stuff anymore. Being a cop was simpler, and now she could do some good without needing to draw her gun every day, or deal with self-involved bureaucrats. She watched the road, helped stranded travelers, arrested poachers. It was good work. And every day the horrors of the Purge, and the chaos of the first year after the fall, became a more and more distant memory.
For the first time in perhaps twenty-minutes, Lightning spied oncoming headlights in the distance. The port city of Laanyan lay five-hundred miles behind her. At the speed those lights were approaching, whomever was behind the wheel was looking to get there by dawn.
They passed just around the next gradual bend in the road, red brake lights illuminating the desert brush as the driver noticed the tell-tale lightbar and reflective lettering on Lightning's cruiser just a little too late.
She sighed as the radar displayed the driver's ludicrous speed on her dashboard. Yes, she was off-duty, but seriously, driving like that was going to get this guy killed. So, with practiced ease, she hit the brakes and, once the car was going slow enough, brought it squealing around in a perfectly executed 180 degree turn, back end straightening out just inches from the guardrail.
Then she slammed on the gas, front end rising and momentum throwing her against the seat as the engine took her easily from zero to a hundred in just seconds.
That brought an even bigger smile to her face.
She caught up with him quickly as he now studiously maintained the sixty-five mile-per-hour limit, evidently hoping that Lightning would cut him some slack and forget the whole thing ever happened. Yeah, not this time. She switched on the lights.
Signaling, he came to a gradual stop just over the next ridge, pulling off onto one of the many empty scenic overlooks dotting the highway; a slab of asphalt perched on the cliff's edge with an endless stretch of flat desert a thousand feet below, all under a starry sky.
Once out in the night air, Lightning put on her hat and took her time walking over to the car, digital notepad in hand, purposefully allowing the guy behind the wheel plenty of time to squirm and regret his life choices.
She glanced at the tags; temporary plates. The car looked brand new, brightly polished right down to the rubber, and hardly a spot anywhere, noteworthy enough in this dry, dusty desert. Like all sports cars these days, it was named after a beast of the Pulsian wilds, 'Razorclaw,' in this case, complete with a tiny decal of said creature. She supposed that sounded more macho than 'Tonberry.'
Shaking her head, Lightning typed a general description and the plate number into the datapad. Probably just another forty-something middle-manager in a midlife-crisis-mobile. Somethings even the end of the world couldn't change.
Nice car though, she supposed. The sleek lines and forward rake gave onlookers the impression it was moving fast even when sitting perfectly still. Impressive amounts of heat wafted up from its rear-mounted engine block. In the right hands, this thing could easily outrun her cruiser.
Didn't make the guy behind the wheel any less of an idiot though. "Okay," she began, trying to suppress a yawn as she finally sidled alongside, "Where's the -" she immediately recognized the woman sitting in the driver's seat, "Fang?"
Her wife looked guiltily up at her. "Hey, Lightning," she coughed. "Um... fancy meeting you here?"
"Fang," Lightning repeated, eyes narrowed. She glanced at her little digital pad again to refresh her memory, "One-hundred and three miles per hour?"
"Oh," she cringed, "is that all?"
Lightning didn't say anything to that. She didn't need to. All that was required was to stand there, arms crossed, and any excuses Fang might've been thinking up died on her lips. In the end she ducked her head and looked away. Over on the passenger seat was all of Fang's firefighting gear. Heavy coat, tools, and her personal radio lay in a pile like she had just left an incident.
"Sorry," she mumbled.
Try as she might, Lightning couldn't entirely hide her amusement. "So... is there a fire?"
Very slowly, Fang shook her head.
It figured. This wasn't the first time Lightning had caught her in the act. "I can't have you driving so fast on public roads, it makes me look bad." None of her fellow officers would say it to her face, but who was going to believe that Fang didn't think she could just do what she liked as long as her wife was on the force. At least she wasn't trying to give her the I-don't-know-how-to-read-Cocoon-script excuse like last time.
"I could never make you look bad."
Lightning's expression turned exasperated, 'Really?' she said with her eyes, 'You're going to try to flirt your way out of this?'
Give her some credit, Fang was perfectly capable of reading Lightning's vast array of facial expressions like a book. "Just, uh, stating a fact."
"Everyone at the station knows about you, Fang. I've told you before… You need to control your-"
"But look at this thing," she interrupted, gesturing to the shiny leather interior surrounding her. "How could I not?"
Placing her hat on the hood, Lightning ducked her head through the open window and was immediately assaulted by new car smell. Polished chrome, leather seats, heavily detailed light-up displays, and several additional gauges Lightning was ninety-nine percent certain were completely superfluous. She shook her head. "Where did you even get this? Is it Snow's?" It looked like something Snow would drive, something that would have given her a heart attack if he'd ever dared picked Serah up in it.
"Uh, no, it's, erm, mine. I sort of… uh… bought it… today, actually." With each passing word, Fang skillfully dug the hole deeper. It was kind of impressive.
Lightning slumped, pinching the bridge of her nose. This was partly her fault, she was the one who suggested Fang get her own car. Fang needed something to get her to the fire station in a hurry. They'd only been living here for a few months, but it had soon become obvious that both their jobs made any kind of carpool scheduling impossible. Besides, Fang's driving was murder on their jeep's transmission.
"It's…" she sighed, trying to think of a word that sounded better than the one currently resting on the tip of her tongue. "Nice," she finished. That was a little gentler than 'over-the-top,' 'ridiculous,' or any of the one-hundred adjectives she'd been considering.
"Yeah, look," Fang said excitedly, eyes brightening. "Eight speed manual, titanium gearshift, twin superchargers with Anavatapta turbines."
"Oh, and," she moved to open the door, then seemed to think better of it, silently asking Lightning for permission. Rolling her eyes, Lightning stepped clear and allowed her to get out. Gullwing doors, because of course they were.
Then the tour began, and Fang was too busy animatedly pointing out the intakes on the hood to notice the way Lightning was giving her some serious side-eye. Fang had on her usual heavy work pants and boots, but beyond that she was only wearing a sports bra. Lightning hoped to whatever gods might still live that Fang wasn't dressed like that when she bought this damn thing.
And meanwhile, Fang showed off the trim - designed for maximum ground-effect downforce-, the sports tires – barely legal, Lightning noted –, even the chrome gas cap - made of solid adamantite, the dealer insisted -, before finally finishing off at the rear, pointing out the spoiler, now retracted, that raised automatically when the car exceeded one-hundred and forty.
"Useful for outrunning a pursuing airship, I suppose," Lightning commented dryly.
"Yeah," Fang said, still oblivious, "And it can do zero to sixty in-" Her excited eyes finally met Lightning's distinctly unamused ones. "Uh… some unspecified period of time. I wouldn't know."
"Sure you wouldn't."
It was hard not to take pleasure in watching her squirm. Just a little...
"It's nice, but seriously, Fang, you can't drive so fast out here. All the largest, most dangerous creatures come out at night. You know this." Hell, Fang was the one who taught her all their names and habits. She'd even written detailed reports on the subject for the local authorities. "I don't want you getting into an accident." Even an eighteen-wheeler was going to lose when it collided with a desert behemoth. It was simple physics.
Fang smirked. "Young woman who destroyed god and survived the fall of Cocoon, dies tragically in road accident. She was 630 years-old," Fang finished by dramatically easing back against the fender and miming whipping away a tear. "Taken from us before her time." Her expression took a markedly softer cast when Lightning couldn't stop the laughter that bubbled up. She watched in silence, eyes glistening, until Lightning composed herself. "Hey Light?"
"I love you."
Cheeks suddenly burning, Lightning hurriedly looked away. It was ridiculous that such declarations could still catch her off guard after all these years. "Yeah," she mumbled, crossing her arms and taking in the expansive sky above the western horizon, anything to not look at Fang right now, "the wedding kind of clued me in."
Fang grinned. "I thought it might. I'm subtle like that."
"Yeah," Lightning replied, nodding at the ridiculous sports-car her wife was still leaning against, "subtle. Very."
Strong arms soon snaked themselves around her. It was a good thing the road really was empty at this time of night. Anyone who happened along would likely find this scene very suspect. "I just want you to be safe... or at least reasonably so, given your line of work."
"I know, and I love you for it." Fang rested her chin on Lightning's shoulder. They watched as a meteor flashed across the sky. "So, do the people at your office really talk about me that much?"
"Yeah. The traffic department keeps a board with photos of our most notable routine offenders." It hardly took a genius to realize that the face of one of them was a dead-likeness for the woman in the photo hanging in Lighting's office, dressed in what Vanille insisted was usual wedding attire for a huntress. Most people probably wouldn't want their wives to look like they were marching into battle on their wedding day, but fortunately, Lightning wasn't most people. "Besides," she continued, musing fondly over that day and the night that followed, "it's not like you cut a low-profile." Fang had been a l'Cie after all, and as one of only two people who grew up in this world, she stuck out like... well, like a woman at a wedding party dressed in armor fashioned from leather and bones. Bones from creatures she had slayed herself.
Fang preened. "I know," she said, rolling her shoulders, easy smiling broadening when Lightning turned around in her grasp and her eyes took in Fang's absence of clothes again.
"First of all, that's not what I meant. And second of all, what the hell are you even wearing?"
She shrugged. "Felt like dressing for the weather. And," she added, gliding fingers down Lightning's arms to take her hands in hers, "it's hot out tonight."
"So I dressed hot, get it?"
Lightning rolled her eyes. She'd studiously avoided telling Fang about all the times people tried to use their various physical assets on her to avoid getting a ticket. Probably wouldn't go over so well. Besides, nothing they had was half as tempting as what Fang offered. "That's not going to get you out of your ticket. Forty miles over the limit. That's ten-thousand credits, to be paid by the end of the month. Out of your account."
Dropping her hands, Fang hung her head, giving a grunt of acknowledgement. "You do like the car though, right? I was going to surprise you."
"You can safely consider me surprised. And yes, it's fine. It suits you." And at least this was safer than a motorcycle.
Fang looked up, regarding her for a long moment, and smiled. "It's beautiful, isn't it?"
"Uh, I guess?" Lightning didn't know. She didn't really have an eye for cars. She loved her cruiser, sure, but at home she drove a re-purposed surplus jeep, formerly PSICOM property. Never really thought about replacing it.
"Not the car," Fang replied, smile growing. "This." Her gesture indicated the world around them.
That she could agree with. Even with the lights of her cruiser still shining, the sky was filled with stars. Hope said there were countless worlds up there. The idea was unfathomable to her. Lightning found she could lose herself just thinking about it. There were no distractions out here. Just the wind, and the light hum of the police cruiser.
And, yeah, her very distracting wife.
"Vanille and I used to come out here. Never this far, exactly, but I always wondered what was out here. Now I get to find out." She reached out and took Lightning's hand again. "Now I finally get to enjoy it."
Lightning shut her eyes, thankful her blush would be missed in this darkness. "You sure you're not having a midlife crisis?"
"Hah. No, this is different. Spent all my life fighting to survive, and now I can do what I want. Already most of the way there," she added. "Found myself a beautiful wife, didn't I?"
She swallowed, every inch of her feeling suddenly weightless, and cracked a smile even as she looked away and her hair fell across her eyes. "Most of the way there, huh?"
"That's the beauty of Gran Pulse, Light: endless possibilities. Who knows what's waiting over the next hill?"
'True enough,' she thought, giving Fang's hand a squeeze.
"Hey, is your dashcam on?" she asked all of a sudden, pupils shrinking as she turned to look at Lightning's cruiser.
Lightning followed her eyes, "You'd think I'd let you molest me like this if it was?"
Next thing she knew, Fang was pulling Lightning onto her, meeting her unexpecting lips. Pulse suddenly kickstarted, she let her wife take control despite the distinctly unprofessional nature of what was transpiring, but finally, gently but firmly, Lightning pushed her back against the car. "If you think I'm not still disappointed in you, you're wrong."
Fang was breathing hard, but she made no move to resist. "Sorry, ma'am."
'Better,' she thought. "Sixty-five means sixty-five, Fang. There are highways out by Yusnaan you can use if you want to go faster." Even without the nocturnal wildlife, these roads were much too twisty for such high speeds. There were no speed limits on the flat plains beyond Yusnaan.
Fang groaned. "I hate that place. How is it possible that a road can be twelve-lanes wide and yet the traffic still doesn't move?"
She wasn't going to admit it, but Lightning had to agree. A few months out here and she couldn't dream of living in such a crowded city ever again. "I want you to be careful. You only just got your license."
"I know..." Fang mumbled, sounding all of seventeen years old.
"I'm recommending a speed-limiter be placed in this thing, since you can't be trusted. Temporarily, at least."
Fang pulled back sharply, horror on her face. "What?"
Fishing her pad out of her pocket, Lightning typed the recommendation in. Fang would have to report to the station for installation within seven days. Maybe she would call in sick that day and spare herself the embarrassment of her wife showing up at her office like a teenager who didn't know any better, to put a speed-limiter on a car that was probably rated for over two-hundred miles-per-hour. "We'll limit you to sixty-five until you learn."
"Sixty-five?! That's monstrous. It's inhuman!"
"It's a car, Fang. You'll live."
"This isn't a negotiation."
She tried again. "Seventy-five?"
Lightning smiled to herself as she punched in the last few keys. The limiter was actually set for ten miles over the posted limit unless the officer saw fit to lower it. Fang didn't need to know that though.
The instant she finished typing, Fang pulled her close again, and this kiss was soft, achingly so. One hand returned to kneading at her uniform until she'd pulled it out enough to reach the soft skin of Lightning's back, deliberately pulling her body against her upper thigh. Lightning moaned. Fang had always been a piece of work, but now that she had a job which required her to routinely carry a hundred-pounds of equipment. Well...
Lightning pressed her hands against the rear fender on either side of her wife to steady herself. Forgotten, the pad slipped from her grasp and clattered on the asphalt.
Smiling against her lips, Fang finally broke away. "Light, please."
The next kiss was much deeper, the kind of kiss that had her blood pounding in her ears. Lightning luxuriated in the feel of those warm lips on hers and the strength in the hands that kneaded ever more desperately at her skin. "How about now?" Fang asked, pulling away breathlessly.
"Forty," Light offered with a smile, still perfectly composed.
"Light," Fang whined.
She brought their foreheads gently together. "Fine. Seventy-five, on one condition."
"Creators," Fang breathed, bright green eyes giving Light her undivided attention as she pulled her wife even closer. "Anything."
Lightning brushed her lips along Fang's cheek until they were whispering in her ear, "Let me drive."