I hope you guys haven't lost interest while waiting for me to update! Here's the full chapter!

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I talk about you now

and go a day without crying

I go out with my friends now

I stay home all alone

And I don't see you everywhere

and I can say your name easily

I laugh a little louder

without you...

Things had changed.

Two months passed and everyone seemed to fall into a routine. Serah had become Snow's little home maker while he organized the scouting at Cocoon's drop point. Hope had tagged along, wanting to be a part of NORA, saying he would be part of "something important." Sazh had joined a group that was working on creating new means of purifying water and manufacturing food without the aid of the Fal'Cie. Lightning on the other hand, had rejoined the Peace Corp in an attempt to help people accumulate to the changes. Without Fal'Cie, things had undoubtly become hectic and much more complicated. Most people were unhappy with the changes at first, but most found it futile to complain about something that simply wasn't changing.

Two months turned into three, and then four, and things changed once more. Because of her experience on Pulse, she was forced to resign from the Peace Corp to help NORA's attempts at settling. Of course, Snow would never let her go alone.

-----

Archylte

-----

He was much more grown up now. Still young, but he had become more mature with the responsibility given to him--and he seemed determined to impress Light.

"You look nice in your uniform," Lightning said, still looking down at Hope. He had grown a few inches, but it would be a while before he would be at eye level with her.

Lightning still retained her khaki uniform from the Peace Corp, while Hope was dressed a bit more like a soldier. Dark pants, white shirt, dark jacket, and a shoulder pad to indicate his "rank." How unlike NORA to assign ranks, Lightning couldn't help but think, Seems Snow has grown up some, too.

Hope smiled at his superior and took his seat next to Lightning in the small cruiser vessal. It was a small military grade transport with a two-person cockpit, cargo and living space for the two to utilize how they saw fit. Despite the comfort of the cruiser, Lightning was determined to travel Pulse the way Fang had taught her it was meant to be.

Don't go getting all sentimental again, Lightning reminded herself as Archylte came into view.

"Do you think we should split up? I could check out the Yaschas Massif while you check out the Eastern Tors... or-or maybe we should stick together.. in case we encounter something... What do you think, Light?" Hope asked, trying his very best to sound strategic.

But the soldier was lost in her thoughts. She stared out the window, trying to spot that familiar yellow amidst the green field.

"Light...?"

"Huh? Sorry," she blurted as her mind returned to the situation, "I doubt much has changed. You can take the cruiser. I'd rather go on foot."

"... Y-You... You trust me to drive this?" Hope said in shock.

After scanning the field once more, Lightning made a sharp turn in the direction of her target.

"Got it."

-----

"These are chocobos?" Lightning exclaimed.

"What do you mean? Don't tell me you haven't ridden one of these babies?" Fang asked, patting one of the gargantuan yellow birds.

"No, it's just..."

Fang smirked, "Just what, darlin?"

Lightning couldn't seem to shake the surprise in her voice, "They're just so..."

Her words were cut short as Vanille hopped on top of one of the chocobos effortlessly and began leading it around without reins or any sort of assistance. Hope watched in awe--Which Vanille couldn't help but notice. She extended her hands for him to take, and hoisted him up to sit in front of her.

"Whoa-waitaminute! I don't know how to uh... drive this thing?"

"It's easy!" Snow said, sitting atop his own bird. He gave it a rough kick and the bird bucked, nearly tossing him off and took off faster than he could control.

Sazh on the other hand, was managing fairily well. He was being slow and overly cautious, but at least he was maintaining his balance. "I got him," he grumbled as he slowly got his chocobo started in the direction of the runaway bird.

Lightning on the other hand, was left on her feet amidst a sea of yellow. "I'm not good with animals. I'll just continue on my fee-"

"Not so fast, princess," Fang interrupted, grabbing Lightning by the shoulders and pushed her in the opposite direction. "I got you all to myself, and I'm not just gonna let you wander off by yourself."

"F-Fang, no. I really don't want to do thi-"

Fang was the first to mount and she brought Lightning with her, keeping her hands firmly placed on Light's hips. "Nice and easy... be gentle--not too fast or you'll fall off," Fang instructed. Lightning's face immediately turned pink. She was a soldier. These were things she just... didn't do.

"First time for everything," Lightning muttered, trying to seem tough despite her position.

"Now hold on and give her a light kick," Fang said, adjusting to make herself comfortable behind Lightning. The motion behind her only caused Lightning to freeze and blush once more--but she willed her body to move, and it thankfully obeyed.

For once, it seemed, since Lightning had met Fang, the two of them were getting along. Not only were they getting along, but, suffice to say, Lightning was enjoying herself.

"Now just give a light tug here and she'll turn the way you want her t--" Despite the gentle instruction, Lightning was a bit too eager is taking control of the bird. She tugged too hard on the bird, causing it to react as Snow's had, bucking the two of them off before taking off, leaving the two frazzled girls without a ride, and separated from their companions.

"I said a light tug, not a-"

"Not another word," Lightning warned with a sharp glare.

"Shutting up," Fang said, holding her hands up defensively.

Despite feeling like a fool, Lightning stood, offering Fang a hand. She "graciously" accepted by tugging Lightning down on top of her. Taken off guard, Lightning fell, though Fang seemed to take the brunt of the trip.

"F-FANG," Lightning yelled as she tried to pull herself together and off of the other woman.

After a good laugh Fang stood and looked Lightning in the eye, "You are by far the most stuffy person I have ever met."

Lightning's brow furrowed, "Stuffy?" she repeated, "You don't even know me," she added defensively.

Fang shrugged and picked her spear from the ground, "Not that you'd give me the chance to get to know you," she teased. Though this only suceeded in pissing Miss Farron off even more.

Ignoring Fang's earlier statement, Lightning continued ahead of the other woman in their march to find another ride.

"I'm right, aren't I?" Fang called from behind her.

"Right about what?" Lightning shot back.

"You're not even remotely interested in talking to me, are you?" Fang asked.

Damn right I'm not, Light thought to herself.

"Go on. Ask me a question. Anything! I'll be completely honest with you!"

You're asking for it. Finally after some thought, Lightning found her question, just as another chocobo came in sight. She stopped dead in her tracks, causing Fang to almost fall onto her.

"...What is it?" Fang asked, wondering if Lightning had seen soldiers or some other hostile approaching.

"Did you realize what you had done during the incident?"

Fang, already prepared for such a question, remained cool. "Yes," she said flatly.

This didn't seem to quell Lightning's rage at all. She turned to face the slightly taller woman, "You knew, and yet you allowed it to happen, to my sister?"

Fang stared right through Lightning as she spoke, "I had no idea who your sister, or anyone was. Frankly, I hardly know you, Snow, Sazh or the kid either." She crossed her arms as she continued speaking, "You would have done the same for Serah."

That struck a cord. It was clear that Light would have walked through fire for her sister, so of course a few lives in the process would have meant little to her if her sister's well being was at stake. She'd already taken plenty of soldiers' lives to get to where she was. But that was different right? They were soldiers. Prepared and trained to die to protect their people--just as Lightning was ready to throw her life down for the safety of Cocoon. Before she became a l'Cie that is. Regardless of soldiers' killed... would Lightning have done the same as Fang to protect her sister?

The answer seemed obvious; accepting that particular answer, however...

That meant forgiving Fang. And Lightning wasn't sure she was ready to place her anger in something other than that woman just yet.

-------

Later that night

-------

The night had progressed with little out of either of the women. Even as the six sat around the fire at their basecamp chatting about their time with the chocobo, the two remained quiet.

"Fang..." Vanille leaned up against her friend, "What's bothering you?"

Snow looked at Lightning and Fang in turn, nodding his head in agreement, "Yeah, the two of you have barely spoken since we got back. Something up?"

Shaken out of her reverie, Lightning looked at Snow for a moment before shaking her head and returning her dull gaze to the fire.

"It's been a long day," Fang explained with a fake grin. She stretched and stood, "I'm gonna go for a little walk," she said, grabbing her spear before setting off on foot.

Once they figured she was out of ear shot, Vanille and the boys turned their attention to Lightning, "What's going on with you two?" Sazh asked, sounding genuinely worried.

Can I forgive her? Lightning asked, turning the question over in her head once more, Am I... really being that hypocritical?

"Light?" Hope called, trying to get her attention, "Lightning?"

Light looked up at her friends once more, not even noticing the missing Fang at first. "What?"

Sazh's brow furrowed, "What's wrong with you, girl?"

It was then that she noticed the vacant spot next to Vanille. "Where'd she go?" she asked, looking around for a sign of Fang.

Vanille frowned, "She said she was gonna go for a walk."

Hope nodded and motioned to the direction of the girl's path, "She went that way. She'll probably be back la--hey wait, where are you going?" Hope asked as Lightning got to her feet and followed the same path.

"I'm gonna go get her," Lightning muttered.

-------

plip, plip, thunk.

"Two," Fang said in disappointment while thumbing the other flat rock in her hand. She flicked her wrist, throwing the rock toward the pond.

plip, plip, thunk.

Frustrated, she kicked at the dirt near the water's edge and let out a huff.

plip, plip, plip, plip...

The appearance of another rock being thrown from behind her caught Fang by surprise, and even moreso, the quick suscession of skips the stone made before falling silently into the water.

"What do you want?" Fang asked, slightly irritated that her solitude was being interrupted.

"You answered my question," Lightning said, taking the few steps forward to be at Fang's side. She took a deep breath, tore her gaze from the pond and looked Fang in the eye. "Now you can ask me one," she said quietly.

Fang's expression softened as she watched the calm features of the soldier. After some thought, she looked back at the pond and sighed, "Honestly, I wouldn't know where to begin." She lowered herself so she was sitting on her haunches, and searched for another stone to throw. Lightning followed suit, but instead sat on the grass.

"How about... we do question for a question?" Fang suggested.

Lightning considered it for a moment. She wasn't good at the whole "conversation" thing, so perhaps taking turns would make things easier.

"Fine," she said with a nod, "How long have you-"

"Whoa whoa, hold on girlie," Fang interrupted, "I thought it was my turn to ask."

Lightning smirked, "But wasn't that a question?"

"What? Asking if you wanted to play this little question game?"

"Well, yeah," Light teased.

"... Oh, you're clever Farron."

The soldier let out a chuckle, "Not as stuck up as you might think," she shot back.

Fang smirked, "Maybe. But this is the first time I've seen you smile. Much less laugh."

Lightning's face turned a light pink. She was right.

"Then again, I couldn't see your face while we were riding the chocobo. Hard not to smile on those things, eh?" Fang jabbed, elbowing Light in the arm.

Lightning rolled her eyes, "I like Cocoon's more."

Fang shrugged, "I can't really say. Never seen a 'coon chocobo."

"Did you just said " 'coon"?" Lightning asked with a smirk.

"Yeah, so?"

"It just sound so... deragatory."

"Maybe that's what I should start calling you," Fang added as she pretended to consider the possibility.

"Don't even think about it."

Fang let out a scoff, "Alright then, fine. What's your question, 'coon?"

Lightning glared at her, "Airhead," she mumbled.

"What was that?"

Lightning mock-cleared her throat, "Oerban."

"Oh ho, now who's the name-caller here?" Fang teased.

Lightning rolled her eyes, but her smile remained. They weren't going to get anywhere at this rate, "Ask," Lightning told her. Technically it was her turn.

Fang smiled, "Alright. What are you gonna do when this is all over?"

Lightning raised her eyebrow, "Assuming we survive?"

"I doubt a Fal'Cie has the strength to take down a soldier as stubborn as you," Fang added.

Disregarding that statement, Lightning thought for a moment. "To be honest, I never really thought about it."

Fang's face went blank, "You've gotta be kidding me."

"What?"

"Here you are, marching along to fight this destiny written for you, and you don't even consider the idea that you might live?"

Lightning shook her head, "It's not that I don't think we'll survive. It's just..."

"Just...?"

"Say we do survive, and we do whatever it is we need to do... What kind of place would we be offered in this world?"

Fang nodded and sat down, "Now you understand."

Lightning gave her ally a confused look, "Understand what?"

"How I felt, I suppose."

And it dawned on her. Nobody would intend on being a l'Cie. In a way, Serah was in Fang's shoes... And now Lightning was too. Beyond being l'Cie, Lightning found she had a lot more in common with Fang than she anticipated.

"How did it happen?" Lightning asked.

"How did I finish my focus?"

"No, how did you... become a l'Cie?"

Fang was silent for a moment, then shook her head, "To be honest... I have no idea. I don't know how I became involved with Vanille. I don't even know how many focuses I've had." Suddenly the Oerban seemed very troubled, "I don't... exactly trust what Vanille has told me."

This was news to Lightning. It seemed as though the only thing in Fang's world was the other Oerban girl.

"What do you mean?" Light asked.

Smiling fakely, Fang shook her head, "My turn."

Lightning frowned, "Alright, fine."

"What's life like on Cocoon?" Fang asked. She crossed her arms and leaned towards her knees, resting her head on her arms as she listened intently to Lightning's explaination. The explaination soon turned to stories, each one seemed to pique Fang's interest, as if she were trying to imagine how her life might be if she were to live on Cocoon.

"Do you think I would fit in?" Fang asked. Lightning cringed at the question and let out a soft chuckle, "Maybe with a change of clothing..."

Fang frowned, "What's wrong with my clothes?"

Lightning smiled fakely, "Well, nothing, it's just... you wouldn't exactly fit in."

Fang smirked, "It's alright. I think I would do best to return to Oerba anyway."

Whether they lived or died, a part of Lightning became a bit sad knowing she would be parting with her comrades--Fang especially.

"There's been something I've been meaning to tell you," Fang said, looking away from Lightning.

Confused as to what it might be, Lightning stiffened a bit, "What is it?"

Fang reached for Lightning's face, brushing her cheek softly as she picked a feather out of the girl's hair. "You've had this in your hair since we got kicked off our first chocobo."

Lightning didn't know whether to laugh or smack Fang for making her so nervous over something so small. She simply took the feather from her hand and looked at it. "Hard to believe that just a few hours ago, I hated you," Lightning blurted.

Despite the harsh statement, Fang simply smirked and nodded, "Yeah."

Expecting an equally harsh statement from the woman, Lightning was surprised to hear just a mild "yeah."

"That's it?" she asked.

Fang gave her a confused look, "What do you mean?"

"You mean you didn't harbor some kind of... I don't know, anger or something towards me?"

Fang shrugged, "You had every right to be mad at me. Hell, I'd still be pissed if Vanille and I were in your's and Serah's shoes."

The two were quiet for a moment, reflecting as they stared out at the pond.

"I was wrong about you," Lightning finally admitted, "You're... not even close to what I thought you were."

Fang looked at her friend curiously, "I'm not?"

"I thought you were this... heartless monster who didn't care who got in her way," she explained, feeling somewhat shameful, "As it turns out... you're quite the opposite."

Fang's face turned a light pink. She was embarassed--something Lightning had never imagined she'd see.

"Oh I can be heartless," Fang said quickly, trying to cover up her sudden change in demeanor.

Lightning chuckled, "Somehow, I doubt that."

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah."

"Well then. Is it my turn to ask a question?" Fang asked, smiling mischevieously.

Lightning raised an eyebrow, "I suppose, yeah."

"Have you ever been "involved" with someone?"

Lightning's face went blank. She just had to go there. How old were they now? 14?

"That's not exactly--"

"Oh come on, Farron. What's the harm?" Fang urged.

Lightning let out a sigh and looked back out at the water, "I take back what I said about you not being heartless."

Fang elbowed her in the arm again, "Is little Miss Lightning embarassed to talk about her love life?"

Lightning rolled her eyes, "I never had time for one."

Fang gave her a blank stare, "I don't believe you."

Lightning glared at her again, "What's not to believe? Life on Cocoon is different."

"Serah managed to land herself a man--and from what you told me, Snow certainly wasn't the first one."

"Where are you going with this?" Lightning asked with a twinge of annoyance.

"Why's the older sister so unlucky?"

"I don't know! Maybe I'm not attractive enough!" Lightning said, crossing her arms and avoiding Fang's eyes once again.

"No."

"Huh?"

"No, that's not even close," Fang said confidently.

"What on Gran Pulse are you getting at?" Lightning finally asked, her face turning redder by the second.

"Lightning..." Fang urged again, trying to get a sincere answer out of her.

"Did it ever occur to you that maybe I just wasn't interested?"

"Perhaps. But I think it's something else," Fang teased, "I think you're scared."

This was just too much for the soldier to take sitting down. She rose to her feet with her fists balled at her side, "Scared? Scared of what, exactly?" Lightning demanded.

Fang stood to match Lightning's eyes, "Everything."

"Wh-what?!"

"I bet you can list on one hand the number of people you've opened up to like you have with me. And we haven't even gotten that personal yet."

Goddammit, she's right, Lightning admitted to herself. Rather than responding, she simply looked away, "I'm not scared."

"I'm not convinced," Fang said, but this time more matter-of-factly than teasing. She reattached her spear to her back and turned to head back to camp. She shrugged, "Then again, it's not like you could prove it to me."

Furious beyond all sense, Lightning was determined to prove her wrong. She grabbed the woman by the sash on her shoulder and pulled her back so they were facing one another. Without thinking, she closed the gap between them and pressed her lips against Fang's as she gripped the woman's sash, preventing her from pulling away. Not that Fang was making any attempt to.

In the few moments that passed between the two, Lightning's whole nervous system seemed to react. Her heart sped up, every touch, every sensation, everything was intensified. When she finally realized what she had been doing, Lightning let go of her. She looked up at the confused, but somewhat satisfied looking Oerban.

"W-What are you looking at?" Lightning asked when Fang's eyes wouldn't leave her, "I told you. I'm not scared."

"You look terrified to me," Fang pointed out.

Oh dear Eden, what did I just do?

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Sorry about the wait everyone. Hope you enjoyed this chapter. And as you can probably already guess, I plan on adding more.

Thank you for reading!

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