Just a quick note: Serah's part in 'Chapter Four (revamped) has been taken down. I've decided to give her a better role in this story… Sorry if there's any confusion!


Chapter 6

Lightning didn't know what to make of this man – this Noah – or his friends. But the blond seemed really friendly; he waved at them and winked at the girls. To her surprise, Vanille giggled and blushed… Or maybe that wasn't so surprising. Vanille thought all guys with muscles, clear skin and the height to match were cute. Well, she never said that they were outright, but Lightning could tell. The flirtatious little redhead was… flirtatious.

When the four were finally gone, Vanille turned to Lightning and announced so loudly that Lightning was certain that her ear was going to start bleeding, "I think he likes you!"

At that Orphan-forsaken moment, Lightning had decided to take a sip of a glass of water brought to her by a curvaceous waitress. And – she did not know that this was actually possible, she'd never done it before – she began to choke on the drink. And dear Vanille, instead of helping her by performing the Heimlich maneuver, began to grin widely. She was clearly amused at the reaction she'd encouraged out of the robotic woman.

When Lightning had finally gotten control over herself, she lifted her head to glare at Vanille. A little louder, Vanille, she wanted to say. I think there are a couple of people over in the Capital who didn't catch your little exclamation.

But she didn't, for fear that the redhead really would say it again, and then she would lose all the hearing in her ears.

Lightning feared looking up – no, she didn't fear. Fear was not something she could feel, she believed. She was embarrassed… whatever that was. Vanille always seemed to be a little embarrassed over something, and Snow was sometimes embarrassed around her, which once confused and perhaps irritated her. That was until Vanille explained that Snow liked her – and when she, hesitantly, queried what it meant to 'like' someone, Vanille exclaimed in that exuberant way of hers, "It means that he wants to be more than friends with you! He wants to hug you and kiss you-" She had to cut off there because Lightning had clapped her hand over the green-eyed girl's mouth. Those were not things Lightning was used to. They were not things she wanted; not to feel, to experience, or even to hear from her friend – or as Lightning would call her, her acquaintance. They were outside of her necessities. What she needed – no, what she was made for – was to be the first class soldier and the best assassin ever built.

And was that her creators had told her? You will never bear a child. Like she wanted to. Children annoyed her. 'You have been programmed with the ability to know how to make a target fall for you, if you should ever need it. But your abilities lie merely in killing – every possible way to kill someone you will instinctively know.

'For now, we have fitted in you a chip that enables us to keep control over you. We do not know how you will react. The chip will overpower your wills and carry out our every orders. Once we are sure you are the perfect assassin, we would deactivate it.

'Do not fail us.'

It was just as well that I destroyed everything before I left the PSICOM and the Corps, Lightning thought, her eyes going inwards - Vanille didn't seem to notice, the grinning fool. If not, in what position would she be now?

Torn, perhaps going crazy from my desires and their will, Lightning reflected, suddenly frowning. That Vanille noticed.

"What? Lightning, it's a good thing to have guys liking you. They just tell me that I'm sweet and cute, but they never do anything." Vanille pouted, flopping back. Now she was annoyed with her friend's reaction. Clearly, Vanille would never understand why Lightning never seemed to feel the same 'feminine' – or was it 'normal'? – feelings as herself, regarding men.

Men! Useless louts, she thought sourly to herself, who think themselves better than women because in the past they worked the land whilst the women mended clothes, looked after children and the rest of it! And they believe that we had it easy…

But even so, it was no longer this way in this age.

"So are you going to call them?"

"Call them?" Lightning asked, startled from her thoughts. Vanille was waving a strip of paper with presumably the blond-haired guy's number scrawled on it; Lightning had seen him press something into the redhead's hand.

"Well they seemed nice, and Noah seems to like you," Vanille said again. "And he kind of looked like he needs someone in his life right now-mmph!"

"Say no more and I will remove my hand," Lightning muttered emotionlessly. Needs me? Hah! Perhaps someone else. Never me. I am not that kind of woman.

"But he does!" Vanille mumbled, her tone muffled. There was a hurt look in her eyes – but for whatever reason Lightning did not comprehend. The pink-haired woman sighed inwardly, but her blue gaze was unwavering.

"His problems are his own," Lightning answered flatly.

Vanille just managed to look even more like a dejected puppy.

"Will you speak?"

Was her lower lip trembling?

Vanille's eyes filled with tears.

Oh Orphan, no. Lightning groaned to herself. She was not in the mood to handle one of Vanille's tantrums. Which included soft sobbing and big teary eyes. Lightning found herself increasingly – annoyingly – pulled in by the look on the girl's face each time she did it. And said girl knew it.

"I will not call them, Vanille," Lightning snapped. "Keep your tears to yourself." She pulled her hand away and stood. "Call Snow. We're leaving." She strode away, leaving a pouting girl behind.

oOo

Serah Farron never hoped to be free.

It was too much to take. Hoping, praying, wishing for help – for anyone, maybe a sibling or a parent – to come and rescue her… and then it was all taken away when she was yanked out of her cell for yet another experiment, yet another gadget they want to fix in her body. She hated it. She screamed and cried and fought bitterly, but for all her added strength and speed, she was no match for their greatest weapon – the tranquilizer.

Just one prick of the needle and she was out like a light, unable to fight any longer. She feared this, she feared the burly guards who gripped her arm to the point where bruises would appear, only to fade away an hour or so later, depending on how bad the bruise was. She feared the scientists, of whom the males, when they came in to 'inspect' her, looked at her with a strange glint in their eyes, something she didn't understand. But that look sent shivers down her spine, and she loathed them. The females were better; gentler, but neither gender seemed to have a heart. They didn't care for her endless quiet pleas, nor for her teary wide-eyed look, something she must have done often in her past life… whatever it may have been.

But most of all she feared herself. When they had been working on her regeneration, they often cut her, deep enough that, if she chose to, she would be able to catch a glimpse of a bone. The pain made her scream.

And then, a couple of hours later, the only thing that signified the gash was the tender, pinky skin. Where others would have taken a good month or so to heal without cure or a potion, she had done in two hours.

She realized other things as well. Once, she had had a nightmare. Her hand had gripped a stone the size of her fist… when she'd awoke, what was left of the stone was dust. Pure dust… Another time saw her passing out, and when she awoke, the area around her was devastated. What had happened she did not know… at least, not until she overheard two excited scientists speaking of her 'obedience'. A chill had run down her spine right then, and she pieced together what they meant. They'd ordered her to destroy everything around her, and like a mindless beast, she had.

She didn't want this. She didn't want any of this!

It scared her.

The door to her dimly lit cell clanged, the sound harsh to her sensitive ears. The pale teenager looked up, her eyes instantaneously filling with fear. "Get up," growled the voice of her guard.

Her breathing quickened, taking in the stinking air – with her heightened senses, she could smell the ammonia and the blood of the others – of the others whom she had never met. Just how many of us do they want?

"Get up," the guard snarled when she didn't move. She recognized this man now. Declan, the captain. He was harsh, violently bitter and completely lacking any female attention, from what she could tell. Her only hope was that he didn't find her fetching enough. The scientists could never stop him if he wanted his way.

"Get up, you lazy bitch!" He kicked her, and a gasp of pain escaped. Side throbbing, she scrambled to her feet, and stumbled back against the wall, her legs numb. How long had she been sitting on the filthy floor? "Hold out your hands."

Serah complied. This was common procedure. She was always handcuffed before being dragged to the experiment room… where she would spend countless time floating in the clouds, her only freedom in this word of chains and cells.

Her hands were bound together with slim metal contraption that, when turned on, would stop even the strongest of men. Declan reached down to release her legs, and gripped the chain on her handcuffs and yanked her forwards.

She stumbled after him, knowing that it was no use to fight. He would merely drag her there, unconscious.

As they passed another cell, Serah's lightly glowing eyes found another victim. She was clearly tall and spirited with a tattoo of some sort on her upper left arm. She wore a blue sari, and underneath (for it was obvious), a black tube top and shorts. The woman was leaning against the far wall, her arms crossed, her head bowed. Serah couldn't see more than that – for one, the guard pulled her away too fast, and for another, the lighting was too dim for even her.

But just before Serah lost sight of the woman, she raised her eyes and cocked one eyebrow.

Then, Serah was thrown into the experiment room and the door boomed shut behind her.

oOo

Stella Fleuret hummed softly to herself as she tended to the flowers in Noctis's vast garden. Much to the chagrin of the flustered gardeners, the Princess took a watering can and began to help them tend to their little plants. She didn't mind – it comforted her, actually – but the gardeners all seemed to be fighting down the urge to yank it away from her and shoo her back into the palace and into boredom.

She giggled a little, spying a young gardener fighting himself. He took one step to her, hesitated, started to turn, hesitated again, and froze in place, obviously undecided. It was nice to have helpers, but just because she was a Princess, it didn't mean she couldn't help out either. And she loved plants, in particular roses. Singing to them softly made them bloom so beautifully. It was as though they knew she was here to help them grow.

If only the same could be said of Noctis…

The Princess's smile faded. Noctis still hadn't returned from his day-trip. It was nearing evening now, and she was worried about him. Who knew what sort of trouble he could run into? She knew he could take care of himself, but he still worried her – as he always does. Not to mention that Laris was around him – that boy needed to calm down.

Thinking of Laris brought back the memories of their conversation about that woman, Claire, whoever she was to Noctis in the past. It hurt her to remember how he'd yelled at her, hurt her to bring back the memories of Noctis's face, twisted with… grief, fear, guilt? Once again, Stella wondered who she was – who was she to instill such feelings in the Ice King that was Noctis? If only Stella could do the same… She would feel accomplished, to have melted Noctis's defenses. But if it meant giving him such grief and guilt, she would not. She loved him far too much to hurt him as Claire had. Neither could she leave him, like Claire. Because surely she had done – she was not here, was she?

Stella's finger lingered on a tiny rosebud, not yet bloomed. The Princess smiled, and she carefully trimmed away the excess leaves blocking the rose's path to sunlight. "There, you little beauty," she crooned softly.

Her thoughts returned to Claire.

That woman… had a hold on Noctis, even while she wasn't here. Stella didn't know if she could release it. But either way, was it worth it? If she managed to free him, would he appreciate it? Because if she was right… he might still love Claire. And if releasing him would cause him to hate her… it wasn't worth it.

But she loved him. And she was here for him, unlike Claire!

If she was still around, I would kill her for doing this – or whatever she's done - to Noctis. He doesn't deserve this. Stella sighed, closing her eyes, bringing to mind the image of this unknown Claire. Her hand tightened on the stem of the rose.

"Ow!" she cried, feeling the thorns pierce her skin, at the same time someone gasped behind her.

"P-Pri-Princess Ste- ah, Your Majesty!"

Stella started, dropping her shears and whirled around. A gardener was looking at her hand, his face pale with shock and fear. "Your Majesty, you should wash it clean, and we'll get a bandage, or a healer, or-" he began to babble. Stella silenced him with her uninjured hand.

"There's no need, sir," she said with a small smile. Concentrating, she murmured, "Cure," and her skin knitted itself back together. The gardener looked visibly less afraid. Most likely he had feared the wrath of Noctis, if and when the Prince returned, for letting the Princess get hurt. "Now," Stella continued, bending down to pick up the shears she'd dropped. "What did you come for?" If he says that Princesses shouldn't be pruning leaves and singing to roses I'll stab him in the neck with these oversized scissors.

"Your Majesty, w-with all due respect, y-you have b-been requested by H-Her Ladyship and His R-Royal Highness to return to your chambers to p-prepare for supper," the gardener stammered. He either was very shaken by what he'd just witnessed or simply had problems speaking to those of Royal blood.

"Understood," Stella answered clearly with another smile. "I'll return these to the shed and-"

"No!" the gardener yelped. "I-I mean, no, Your Majesty, I-I will do so f-for you!"

An amused smile crossed her lips briefly. "Well, thank you, sir. I will take my leave now." She curtseyed to him and left.

Does this mean Noctis is home?

Tonight, the Princess decided, tonight she would get her answers from Noctis. No matter what he said or did, she would find out what happened with Claire.

Even if it killed her.

oOo

"Noctis…"

"Noct!"

Noctis Caelum started out of his daydreams and glanced around at his friends. He'd been thinking about Claire again, and comparing the strange woman Lightning to the smiling, carefree girl he once knew. He'd gotten about as far as their face shape, the same nose, same lips – although Claire's were always smiling and Lightning never seemed to smile… He'd been comparing Lightning's eyes to Claire's, and had just come to a conclusion that Claire's eyes were dimmer. Lightning's eyes seemed to glow a little. He'd asked Marcus in an undertone if he'd noticed anything strange about Lightning's eyes, and the scarred man answered in the affirmative.

"What is it?"

Laris was holding the Prince by the arm, and the other two were spread out a little on either side of him. All three were looking at Noctis worriedly.

"What?" Noctis demanded in an annoyed tone when no answer seemed forthcoming. Placido cleared his throat.

"Noctis, you were about to walk across the street without checking the traffic," he said, carefully gauging his friend's reaction. "And we know you're… different and all, but I don't think that even you can withstand the weight of a shuttle-bus coming at you at a hundred miles an hour." Laris and Marcus nodded, backing up what Placido had just told him.

Noctis frowned. "Well I was thinking," he said evasively.

"You always seem to be paying attention even when you're thinking," Laris pointed out. Slyly, the blond man leaned forward and added, "Were you thinking about that strawberry-blond back at the café?" Then, "Ow!" as Marcus stepped on his foot.

"Shut up, Laris," was Marcus's only reply.

"Yeah, yeah…" the blond muttered, letting Noctis go to bend down and rub his foot. "You have big feet.

"And you know what they say about men with big feet?"

"… That they have small brains?"

"… Asshole."

"What's up, Noctis?" Placido wanted to know, ignoring the other two's antics. "You just spaced out on us. And if you were thinking of Lightning… then you probably shouldn't. There's Stella, remember?"

Stella. How could he forget Stella? Sweet, loving Stella, who cared for him more than he did for himself. Yes, it would hurt her if she knew what was going on in his mind right now. After all, he knew Stella longer than this Lightning… Noctis closed his eyes, breathing carefully and slowly. "I wasn't thinking of Lightning," he fibbed, hoping that, with his eyes closed, no one would see the lie. "I just met her – why would I be thinking of a total stranger?"

"Because she's hot?" Laris offered. Noctis opened his eyes to glare at the blond, who shrugged. "Don't blame me for being born a guy," he grumbled. Noctis rolled his eyes and caught Marcus's look. The older man was staring at Noctis inscrutably. Despite the feeling of uneasiness that descended on him, telling him that Marcus knew exactly what Noctis was thinking, the Prince decided to ignore him, and turned away. "Let's go."


[ Author's Note ]

First things first.

So those of you who have been visiting my page often may have noticed that I've posted up a little note at the top saying that I'll be clearing out some of my old stories. Those which have been requested for me to save will be redone and perhaps posted on either here or Archive of Our Own, where I'm known as 'dawnfireangel'. Oneshots would be left alone… unless I really think they need to be redone.

For those of you who haven't seen that note and want to save a few of their favorite fics (including Eclipse!), please send me a PM, or just tell me in a review, or over MSN, or in any other way you can think of.

If Eclipse is to be saved, then I'll import the revamped chapters into Archive of Our Own (and perhaps leave it here as well, and on DeviantArt if I have to). The original story will be taken down for my reference, BUT if you want to read it, just PM me and I'll upload it onto Sendspace or Megaupload for you :) Some of the revamped chapters may be re-revamped as well.

Next, you may have noticed that I haven't been updating, BUT I've been on several role-play sites (including some on Fanfiction itself), and some may even be wondering why. The reason is simply that role-playing is easier than writing a whole fic all by myself. Also, I've been reworking my style a little, as you may have noticed. If you haven't, and want to know how it's changed, let's just say that you'll have lots more to read now.

Also, in case you're wondering, yes, I've deleted Serah's bit in chapter four and rewrote it here. Why? Because I've decided on a more solid, higher role for her in Eclipse. I won't say more than that ;)

Fourthly, Stella's personality has changed a little as well. I hope it's to everyone's satisfaction.

And lastly, Eclipse's pairing is now StellaxNoctisxLightning! Yay for threesomes!

That done, I'm sure you all hate my guts right now for leaving this story stagnant for so long. I hope I still have reviewers – or at least readers… xD

Until the next chapter!

[ end of Author's Note ]