This is it, the chapter everyone has been waiting for, and the one I'm dreading putting up. I'm quite proud of the fact I finished a story, seeing as this is the first fic I have ever reached the end of. Thank you muchly to all who have loyally read and reviewed, there's no doubt in my mind that it's because of you people I finished.
Special thank you to SinisterPurr, Provocative and Talkative, and Siverstorm for helping me along on msn. :3
The gunshot rang out, and Hope heard a body fall to the ground. Biting his lip he opened his eyes, only for his heart to stop.
Lightning was still standing.
She stood as still as stone, eyes fixed on the massive, twisted corpse on the ground. Her face was unreadable, a mixture of anger and neutrality. Her body shook a tad, perhaps from exhaustion before she collapsed. The woman had stood just to be defiant in what should've been her last moments.
But they hadn't been.
The sergeant thanked her anger for masking her fear. Yes, her gun was damaged but she never imagined it would… Well…
The man had shot himself.
Vanille moved cautiously forward. "Did he…?"
Fang looked like she was about to laugh. "Yes, he did."
"He.. He shot himself." Hope stated blankly.
"It backfired…" Lightning corrected in a quiet, yet still tone. Her hand shakily outstretched and took the red and silver weapon from the man's grip.
"And yet you look displeased…" Fang commented, crossing her arms.
"Do you recall when we had to fix this weapon last?"
Snow grimaced. "Can't you just send it in?"
Lightning shot him a glare. "No."
Sighing in defeat, he resided to putting his hands behind his head and turning away.
"Noo… Of course not."
"Yes, I know. Shut up. I'm way ahead of ya."
"We should get going," Hope offered, gesturing to the airship.
"Yeah!" Vanille beamed, dancing a tad in celebration. "We have Cocoon to save!"
Lightning frowned, realizing that eventually they would have to address just how unlikely that prospect was. Though at the moment the best thing for the group to do was get the hell out of this place and back to the Lindblum. It would be ridiculous to have that particular discussion here.
Only because it was guaranteed to get heated, and it would again pit herself and Snow against each other.
Oh, now there's a surprise. Snow and I disagreeing.
Lightning rolled her eyes, and with Fang's help was up on her feet. Her exasperation probably showed, because Fang's tight grip on her arm didn't leave. She kept the sergeant steady as she slid the broken Blaze Edge back into its holster. The tribeswoman's eyes were unreadable, though not in that sly sense. They were rather blank; something was entirely new to Lightning.
Despite wanting to hold up her cold persona, it slipped away at the strange look.
"Are you all right?"
Fang smirked. "Worried about me?"
Her voice quieted down a bit as they slowly started for the ship. They could hear Sazh cursing something and the hitch-pitched amused squeals emanating from Vanille.
"I was a little scared back there," Fang offered, stopping her pink-haired companion. "You look exhausted, Light."
Stop worrying about me. I made it through, didn't I?
That seemed to hit a nerve, the tribeswoman grabbed Lightning's arm and pointed to a scratch. As tiny as it was, it had a scab over it, meaning it had bled.
"Whether you like it or not, you bleed." Her emerald-eyes flashed with annoyance. "What's with you and not accepting help?"
Lightning gritted her teeth and pulled her arm away. "You can have Vanille cure me, if you'd like."
Fang's eyes narrowed. "You really like to go it alone don'cha?" She huffed, a half-smile appearing. "I don't know whether to admire you or be irritated."
In my opinion, you do enough admiring.
"Hn." The sergeant found the strength to cross her arms.
"What do you mean it's fried?" Hope crossed his arms as he watched Snow. The massive man was half under the un-powered engine, clinking away with various tools that Hope had never seen before. "But we need to leave."
"Thanks for the update, kid…" Snow replied, an edge to his voice. "I hadn't noticed we're being pursued by some crazy chick with giant warlords…"
"Can you fix it?" Vanille questioned, swaying eagerly back and forth in the flip down chair she had situated herself on.
Snow slid out from underneath the massive engine with a confident grin on his face.
"Of course I can!" He shuffled back underneath quickly. "I've fixed worse…"
"Like what?" The girl loved stories.
"I had this hoverbike back in Bodhum, I bought it for next to nothing." His mind drifted back to it. "Thing was an absolute wreck."
"Bet Lightning didn't approve."
Snow laughed, fiddling with an engine part that was covered on black soot. "I think she liked it better than she liked me to be honest."
Curiosity got the better of Vanille after hearing the man's reply to Hope's comment. "What did Serah think of it?"
Snow paused, clutching the wrench loosely in his hand as he thought back to it. A small, sad smile appeared on his face, and he was thankful the other two couldn't see him.
"She… Said it had 'potential'." He chuckled quietly to himself.
What he hadn't mentioned was Lightning had been there when he had asked either of their opinions. At the time the man had thought if he could prove to the sergeant that he wasn't completely useless, maybe she'd lighten up. Lightning had protested to even seeing the sorry excuse for a vehicle. When she did arrive following her upbeat sister, that cold, irritated scowl on her face vanished when she saw the scrap heap in front of her.
"Well?" Snow gestured to it. Secretly dreading the reply he was about to get. "What do you think?"
Serah clapped her hands excitedly. "Are you going to fix it?"
"You bet!" Snow gave his girlfriend thumbs up. "It's gonna look like the new ones rolling off the production line."
"It certainly seems like it has that sort of potential, doesn't it, Light?"
Oh, the look she gave her sister was one that crushed Snow's hope then and there. Slowly she stepped out from behind her sister and swaggered over to the wreck. Her eyes narrowed as she took a critical eye to it, gently running her fingers over the rusted, denting front bar.
"It doesn't have a seat…" She stated flatly, eyes fixed on the missing middle section. "Are you planning to turn it into a jetpack?"
Snow didn't know whether Lightning had attempted humour or not, so it was safer to just answer.
"Nah, I'm gonna make it."
And so came the disapproving, annoyed facial expression. Oh, how he loved those.
Without a word she turned from him and walked past her sister. Only stopped by the gentle hand on her wrist.
"Light," Her sister's voice was almost pleading for a civil reply. "What do you think?"
Lightning's eyes flicked back to the hoverbike. "Everything has its uses."
She glared coldly at Snow then, before returning her hard gaze to her sister. Accepting the answer Serah released her. The sergeant was quick to leave, stating how her charge better be home for supper or Snow would be the one to pay for such irresponsibility.
Snow wondered, as he tightened a bolt, if Lightning's opinion of him had changed a lot or a little. It had obviously changed, though he didn't know to what extent. At least now she could at least tolerate his presence.
A tad less likely to die… Yes, ma'am, I'm making progress.
He smirked to himself.
Lightning was sitting comfortably on a boulder. One leg crossed over the other, her posture still managing to be the essence of perfection despite her tiredness. Only her eyes gave away her true feelings, they looked like they just wanted to shut and drift away. Of course, they had almost done it, except for the accented voice of Fang slithering into her ears.
The sergeant looked over, seeing Fang leaning up against the side of the 'work-in-progress' airship.
"So…?" Lightning took the bait, only because she knew the woman would just keep hinting at something until she did.
"You didn't hit me."
"Pardon?" Now she was utterly lost. "Did you switch sides?"
Fang chuckled. "Wouldn't that be a twist? But nah, I'm referring to our kiss."
Now, the sergeant was struggling to keep her blush hidden. Her eyes shot away from Fang's and instantly found a pebble on the ground fascinating. "Oh."
"So you remember?" The tribeswoman's smirk turned into a smile. "Good to know, you were a little out of it."
"Explains why I didn't hit you."
"Oooor…." Fang slid closer, and knelt down, a hand on her hip while the other clutched her spear. "You like me."
Lightning stood instantly, arms crossed and expression that of irritation. "Hardly."
"Admit it," She teased, relishing in how much fun it was to wind the woman up. "It appeals to you."
"The idea of you and me."
"No." The sergeant's voice was firm. "It doesn't."
"No?" Fang tilted her head and straightened up, emerald eyes gleaming. "So…" She neared Lightning. "It's never crossed your mind?"
That blush was beginning to break through. "Never."
"Really? You're imagination hasn't drifted to what would happen?" The tribeswoman enjoyed this game far too much.
She wasn't lying, not really. Though some of her dreams had been rather awkward, much of it was hazy. Her imagination didn't get the chance to wander until she was unconscious. In her dream world there had been moments where her mind played on the idea of Fang and her… But it had never progressed that far.
There was a flash of what Fang had mentioned, and Lightning found her irritation growing.
If I wasn't so damn exhausted…
She would be able to fight off the idea a bit better? Probably.
"It's cute when you try to lie." The woman snickered, snapping poor Lightning out of her train of thought. "Like a kid who got caught stealin' cookies from the jar."
"Stealing is against the law." Her tone came out rigid, like it would've had she still been at Bodhum and part of the Guardian Corps.
"Aye," Fang closed the distance between them some more, and Lightning couldn't help but be captured by her smoky eyes. "It is… But don't tell me you've never been tempted."
Oh, and wouldn't you like me to reach into your jar and-
Lightning closed her eyes as she mentally beat herself for that thought. Her eyes opened again and were icy, though Fang could see a spark of something in them.
"Temptation's a sin." Lightning countered, her eyes flicking to Fang's lips for a split second.
Fang brushed some of Lightning's pink hair from her face. Lightning almost seemed to flinch; such a gesture was as foreign and threatening to her as an enemy's blade. She wasn't allowed weakness because she had to be strong. Serah and this damned scenario demanded she be strong, and falling for temptation was the farthest from strong you could be.
Well, dead was probably the farthest, but this was pretty damn close in her book.
"If you want," Fang offered, running a cool finger down Lightning's cheek. "You can deck me after."
"Tch." She looked away, uncomfortable with how exposed she felt. "What good will that do?"
"You just seem fond of it."
Lightning caught Fang's hand as the woman went to guide the sergeant's gaze back to her own. She was caught off guard by the reflex and the glare she was receiving. It wasn't angry however, it was decisive. Like the woman was considering every option, every little detail.
Fang briefly wondered how many bloody outcomes there could be for what they both wanted to happen.
"Lightning," Fang's voice didn't break that critical stare, but it seemed to draw her attention. "What do you think will happen?"
Outcome a) We turn to crystal and sleep forever… Or Outcome b) We turn into monsters, or I do at least.
This is of course, assuming it goes anywhere-
Fang didn't wait any longer for her reply; she kissed Lightning, though it was a gentle gesture. If the woman couldn't make up her mind, the least the tribeswoman could do was help her sway towards the decision that involved more of them together. She parted from the sergeant slowly, watching with intense curiosity as emotions fluttered over Lightning's beautiful face.
Surprise, followed by anger that diluted to mild irritation, and then interest. Lightning's tongue tasted her own lips tentatively.
They tasted like Fang.
Oh, to hell with it then.
Lightning had never kissed very many people on her own accord. There was the occasional holiday that involved hanging some werewolf-banning plant in doorways and men at the HQ who would specifically stop her under it. That wasn't her choice, and most of the time, if she did allow them to kiss her, it was a peck on the cheek.
In fact, if she recalled correctly, the only person she had kissed on purpose was Snow.
That was sad, it took proving a point and some sort of confused emotional state to get her to kiss someone?
She would've frowned, but somewhere in her mental tangent her body had told her mind to piss off and thrown itself at Fang. She registered pressing her lips to Fang's, and how the woman had been taken slightly aback by the sudden sign of affection. Maybe that was why she never kissed anyone, she was bad at it?
You're thinking of this now?
Though deep in her stomach there was now a twisting fear she was a horrible kisser, she doubted as such. Fang hadn't pulled away yet; instead the Gran Pulse-born had wrapped her arms around the sergeant tightly. Lightning mentally cursed herself; she had one hand gently touching the tribeswoman's neck and the other resting near her collarbone.
She was trapped, and she seemed to take on the 'girl' classification in this show of infatuation.
When had Fang's tongue made it into her mouth? Lightning didn't have the knowledge base to fight that sort of battle.
Maybe you should cast Libra.
Oh, wasn't that poetic.
Despite her mind trying to ruin the moment, Fang's actions had intrigued some neglected, dark part of her. She felt her own tongue moving in reply, and suddenly found this sort of duelling much more interesting than ones with swords and spears.
They parted, and Lightning found herself resting her forehead against Fang's. She refused to open her eyes, which had closed at some point during that heated moment.
When her eyes did open, she saw a playful smirk on Fang's lips.
"What?" Lightning growled, though it wasn't at all threatening.
"Just you…" Fang replied, a little disappointed when Lightning backed off. "I didn't think you'd actually kiss me."
There was a rush of air, and either woman looked up blindly as a dark shape zoomed over the field. It did one circle, revealing itself to be a sleek, elegant ship that made the sky tank they were apprehending look like a floating hunk of scrap. It landed across from them, and it wasn't long before the rest of the gang were outside, watching in curiosity.
"Not good," Sazh pointed to it. "That's the ship that was with the rest of the psycho PSICOM soldiers."
Lightning frowned, and reached behind only to have Fang grab her hand before it touched the rifle.
"It's broken remember?" The woman offered, plucking her spear from the ground as the others readied themselves. "Let us handle this fight."
The ramp to the ship hissed and opened, lowering down quickly. No soldiers rushed down, no laser-targeting rifles were aimed at them. Instead a womanly figure emerged from the enemy craft. She was clad in a skin-tight suit, with an eerie helm reminiscent of sniper soldier's hiding her face.
Whoever she was, she didn't carry a weapon with her. Nodding to the group of l'Cie before her head turned. She stared at Raiden's corpse, or they assumed that's what she was looking at as she approached. She stopped when her feet were just touching his mutated arm.
"Shame." Her voice was calm and cool. "He had such potential."
Hope gulped, and found himself moving behind Snow. Something about her made the boy's skin crawl.
"Who are you?" Fang called, not at all intimidated by the woman.
Slowly, she looked over to the group. "I was his commanding officer."
They fell silent as the woman outstretched a hand over Raiden's corpse, and a brilliant light shown from him. Slowly the crystal he had called forth before emerged, fluttering up and into the figure's grasp. When she touched it, it vanished. Their eyes were on Raiden now, his twisted corpse began to shimmer, and slowly his body was transformed into a crystal formation.
She tilted her head at the statue for a second. As if analysing it before delivering a swift, and powerful kick to what would've been the man's midsection. The formation shattered a moment afterwards, expelling a rush of shards and energy from the blow.
The group shielded themselves as pieces of the warlord rained onto them. Vanille looked absolutely horrified.
"Why did you do that?" She roared, hands forming into fists.
The woman was now approaching them and was quietly chuckling as she watched them all go on the defensive. "There's no room for failure, not now."
"What are you talkin' about?" Sazh growled. "You're squad's gone, you failed. I'd call that a failure."
"Oh…" Her voice was so smooth; it almost took the edge off the entire situation. "I really haven't."
"Sazh." Lightning shot the pilot a glare. "I told you to get the ship started."
"I.. uh…" He frowned at the woman before nodding. "You scream though, if you need help."
Lightning shot a look at him.
"All right, have Vanille scream then…" He muttered, trudging off.
"I didn't think you'd be able to take down Raiden and still have all of your team standing, Miss Farron…" She cooed; sounding vaguely impressed. "Congratulations, you're making them worthy of the title l'Cie."
"Tch," Lightning's body was tense, just waiting for the strange soldier to try something. "What do you want?"
"You, the boy, and the hero."
The group was again, silent.
"Though, I doubt any of you would come willingly. So I propose a trade." She gestured with a fluid motion of her hand to their leader. "Lightning's life for either Hope or Snow."
Fang blinked and looked at Lightning. Sure the woman was tired but she was far from death. A quick glance at the rest of the group revealed they were as lost as she was on the whole proposal. It didn't make any sense, least of all why she was threatening their leader if she was one of the three she wanted.
"You're bad at this skill called persuasion." Fang taunted.
"You think so?" The woman crossed her arms, playfully thinking about it. "I suppose, I could try a different tactic."
There was a split second where Lightning wasn't sure what was going on. Only that she was moving. She thought that maybe, her body had once again ignored her mind and acted on it's own. But there was a rush of wind around her, and cries from the others behind her as she was pulled forward.
Right towards the woman.
She came to a very abrupt stop when something slammed into her chest. A near-silent cry of anguish managed escaped her lips as she looked down. The commander's hand was in her chest, melded inside through some form of magic that shouldn't be possible, for even a l'Cie. It was gut wrenching and terrifying; so much that Lightning couldn't hide the horror on her face.
The stranger slowly drew her hand out and dropped Lightning to the ground. The sergeant gasped, trying to get air back into her lungs as she looked up desperately.
There her enemy was, standing over her, and clutched in her hand was a shining, pink crystal that resembled a lotus blossom.
"Lightning!" Fang's confused cry brought the woman back to reality.
She felt rather odd. A cool, almost calming sensation washed over her body before her limbs began to move on their own. Lightning's vision blurred, the world becoming a colourful wash of rainbows and shining sparkles before it all blended together and formed darkness. She could feel her arms rise up, above her head and her mouth opened ever so slightly.
Then Lightning Farron felt very, very tired.
Yun Fang couldn't remember if she had ever seen anything like what was before her, and was positive she'd never want to see it again. Lightning's body was now a shimmering, glistening crystal statue that was near identical to Serah's in purity. The crystal has formed arcs of bolts that spun around her protectively and seemed to spawn from her hands, while her feet and half of her calves were hidden in jutted crystal spikes at the bottom.
It would've been serene, if it weren't for the evil woman having warped everything that such a form meant.
"F-Fang…" Vanille was terrified; she was ready to run into the ship. "H-how…"
"You turn her back," The tribeswoman snarled, her knuckles were pure white from clutching her weapon so tightly. "Or so help me, no fal'Cie will be able to find a trace of your wretched existence anywhere."
"Your threat is empty." The woman calmly replied, watching with satisfaction as the crystal vanished from her hand. "This is my new tactic, it's called intimidation."
Not that anyone could see, but they knew she was smiling.
"Either Hope or Snow comes with me, or I'll shatter the ex-sergeant."
There was an awkward, heavy silence that loomed over the group. Snow's mouth opened to speak, but he was cut off.
"I'll go." Hope hurried to beat the older man to the punch.
"No, Hope, I-"
Hope looked at the hero with a furious expression. "You're the hero, aren't you?" His words stung Snow's core like a bite from a pit viper. "Find a way to help Lightning then, don't go off to get yourself killed."
"Promise me," Hope roared, his glare burning into each and every one of them. Even Sazh, who had just returned to see what was the matter. "Promise me you'll find a way to turn her back!"
Fang and Vanille nervously glanced at one another; Snow just raised his hand up and formed a fist. The man forced a smile onto his face as he tried to sound convincing. "We'll find a way, Hope."
The boy nodded and turned away.
"Hope…" Vanille sulked, outstretching her hand for him.
"Don't worry about me," the boy was acting brave. He was thinking this through too, just how Lightning would've wanted. They needed Snow, he was stronger than the boy was by far, and had an eidolon. He was the strategic choice.
That didn't make going with the enemy commander any easier. His heart was pounding as he moved away from the group, only stopping once he was inches away from Lightning's sparkling statue.
Light… He inwardly wept, his hands shaking as he reached out and gently touched one of the larger crystalline stalagmites. I… Don't worry… They'll find a way to turn you back…
Lightning sat on her porch, her eyes staring out at the quiet sea. It was late evening; the stars were just beginning to show, the clouds clearing away to reveal the endless sky above her.
The sergeant was silent; the only sound was that of her nails tapping on the arm of her lounge chair, and the occasional laughter of children on the beach.
It was quiet and calm.
Just how she liked it.