Disclaimer: Final Fantasy XIII is the property of Square Enix. No profit is being made from the circulation of this story.
Someone Must Get Hurt
The house had a stillness about it that unnerved even Lightning. Her sister's bedroom door remained shut in the morning and into the afternoon. She hadn't seen Snow all day, despite the fact that she rose early. Thankfully, she had a predisposition against hangovers, especially helpful after a night like the previous.
She hadn't meant to sleep with Hope. Even as she felt herself giving in, her lips moving against his, she had told herself to stop. But she didn't stop. She didn't know what to make of it. There had always been a definite connection between them, but Lightning had seen herself more as an older sister than anything else to Hope. It made her inability to control herself all the more distasteful.
It made her want Snow all the more.
She tried to fight it down, but her old, irrational longing for him surged up in her as she woke. She was missing so much in life and love because she couldn't let go of it, let go of him. He didn't belong to her and it made it all the worse. Spending forever pining away for someone made everyone else remind her just how empty her life would be.
She wanted Serah's comfort, but she wasn't sure she deserved it anymore. Not only did she have impure thoughts about her sister's husband, she didn't stand up for Serah. She didn't protect her sister when she needed it. Lightning had to make amends.
As the afternoon bled into evening and the sky began to dim, she decided to breach the distance between them. She knocked on Serah's bedroom door, but got no response. She pressed on anyway, letting herself into the room.
Dim light streamed in through the open door, framing her shadow across the bed where a Serah-sized lump lay, encased in blankets.
"Hope said he brought you home last night. Then he took off and said he needed some air," Lightning said, falling onto the bed beside her sister.
Serah turned her head slightly, her face still buried in the pillow but one eye opened and darted around, taking in Lightning. She had the blankets pulled up to her neck despite the warmth in the air. Her hair clung to her head, a mess of curls that had air-dried into an untamed ball of wiry pink.
"Please leave me alone," she whispered.
Lightning scowled at her. "That won't happen, Serah. I need to talk to you."
"I'm sorry, I overreacted," Serah replied. "I know you didn't mean to hurt my feelings. I was just shocked."
Her voice sounded hollow to Lightning, as though she had rehearsed the lines before. She was trying to give Lightning an excuse to leave, a fake apology that she didn't really mean, a way to let sleeping dogs lie. Lightning didn't want that. She wanted her sister to understand. She wanted Serah to feel better, not like a lump curled up in bed, suffocating herself in misery.
"I shouldn't have said what I did to you," Lightning said. "I was trying to be honest, but I wasn't being sympathetic at the same time. You were shocked, and I just made it worse."
Serah lifted her head a bit more, both her eyes regarding Lightning. "I made things even worse after that," she whispered.
Lightning waited, but Serah only stared, her blue eyes wide. With a sigh, Lightning pulled the blanket up from under her and slid under it. They hadn't ever really shared a bed, but when Serah had been scared or upset, Lightning had crawled under the blankets with her, offering her comfort and calm. It happened until their parents died. She regretted not crawling into bed then, but it had changed her. It was how she became Lightning.
"Your shoes are in my bed," Serah pointed out.
Lightning playfully slid her foot over and nudged her with her toe. "Serah, I love you, you're my favorite little sister," she said, a lopsided smile crossing her face.
Serah didn't return the gesture. Her face remained a total mask, completely unfamiliar to Lightning. It was rather disconcerting the longer she wore it, until both sisters looked away, Serah burying her face in her pillow once again and Lightning gazing up at the ceiling. They both let the silence stretch over the bed, an awkward shroud that didn't quite cover their feet.
"I did something I shouldn't have," Serah whispered. Lightning nearly missed it for the softness of her voice but as she replayed the sound in her head, it made sense to her in a way that wasn't entirely logical. Hope had picked her up at the Hotel Bodhum Beach, somewhere Lightning hadn't been able to place the first time she had heard it. Serah had been in the bar, she assumed. Had she been there with someone else? How far had she gone?
"I shouldn't have told you that," Serah said, clearing her raspy throat. She curled her fingers tightly around the sheet, making a white-knuckled fist.
Lightning pressed her lips together, unsure of what to say. Her mind began a frantic race that followed no logical progression. Would Serah do that? Was she even capable of that? Did it mean something or nothing, a mistake or intentional? She seemed regretful, but Lightning wondered if, because of how she also seemed so subdued and calm, if there wasn't more to what Serah was feeling.
"Please say something," Serah said. "I can't stand you not saying anything."
"I don't know what to say," Lightning replied quietly.
"That's alright," Serah said. "I didn't expect anyone to say anything, really. You're my sister, you can't exactly call me a whore or a slut to my face."
"You're not either of those things, how could you think I would call you that, Serah?" Lightning asked, stung.
"I can see it on your face," Serah whispered. She gripped the pillow tightly and wrinkled her nose, willing herself not to cry. "Please, just leave me alone, Claire. I need some time to think."
Lightning couldn't stand it any longer. She didn't know if her face really said those things, but she hated herself for the possibility. Her sister's pain was beyond her help. She pushed herself from the bed and fled back to her room.
She opened her eyes at the sound of his deep voice. His hand was on the doorknob, the other scratching the back of his head in indecision. Should he enter? Lightning didn't know. She didn't know if she wanted him to or not. Could she hold everything inside of her, or would all the secrets, her own yearning and sins, her sister's transgressions, would they all come barreling through her lips in a verbal explosion?
"Yes, Snow?" she said, keeping her voice even.
He hesitated still, staring with guarded eyes at the floor. Lightning didn't like the dejected expression. His face shouldn't have ever been marred by a frown, but it was there, creasing the corners of his eyes and the edges of his mouth.
"Could we talk?" he asked finally.
Despite the screaming of her brain to refuse, the word "yes" left her lips and he stepped into her room, closing the door behind him. His blonde hair fell in his eyes and he brushed it back. Looking around the room, he settled for leaning against the wall.
"Serah won't let me in the bedroom," Snow said quietly.
Lightning sat up in bed slowly, propping herself on her elbows. "I know, she told me that."
"I don't understand," Snow said.
She was silent. What she wanted to say was on the tip of her tongue but she bit it back, wanting to protect him. Of course you don't, you don't expect the person you love unconditionally to do what she's done.
"She'll be alright," Lightning said.
"Do you think I'm doing the wrong thing?" Snow asked.
Lightning quietly weighed her answer to the question. He really didn't suspect that anything else had happened, that Serah's brooding came from what he wanted to do with his life, with what he had said to Serah. Lightning wanted to be honest and tell him to do everything he wanted, to be everything he wanted before she shamed him into a regular job to be a regular husband to her sister. She wanted to tell him she had been wrong, but she was too proud.
"No, I don't," Lightning told him. "You have to do what makes you happy."
Snow's chuckle surprised her. "Light, you know that we do a lot more than that, and usually we do what we think will make other people happy...not ourselves."
Lightning didn't like his frankness about what really motivated people. She wanted to think that it was much simpler, but Snow had spent hours thinking about it. Hell, he had been an intimate friend to sacrifice for years. She owed him more than a sad effort to pacify him. Brushing the hair out of her eyes, she saw his gaze follow the motion carefully, some emotion sparking in them.
"Light, it's been years since you've talked to me," Snow said quietly. "I did everything I was supposed to, and I lost...all the friends I ever had because of it."
"We're still here for you," Lightning said softly. "Snow, I never should have...I shouldn't have let myself forget, after I learned it again, that people have to feel they matter."
Snow shook his head. "You wanted me to be good to Serah. It was me, I didn't focus on anything else. I kept building this empty house."
"It has to be hard," Lightning said. "I know you wanted a big family. I thought...that you and Serah would have it. It should have come so easily."
"It did," Snow said. "I had it, with NORA, when we were l'Cie. But I wanted to give Serah the more normal family."
"I wanted that for her too," Lightning agreed. "And now she's built herself into this...box."
Snow sighed and pushed himself away from the wall, closing the distance between them and sinking down beside her on the bed. Lightning stiffened but admonished herself. He was looking for comfort, not trying to push his luck.
"Light, it should have been different," he said.
"You can say that all you like, but it won't change things now," Lightning replied. "No matter what, you can't undo what's been done, you have to live with it. If you want things to be different, you have to make the change. But you know that already, don't you?"
Snow nodded. "I'm not the only one though, that's what always traps me."
Her gut clenched. She certainly knew that, certainly had thought about it when she thought about him. She wanted his affection and love, but she always thought of Serah, and so did he. The sparks between them danced, forbidden and tainted, but she gazed at him, caught in the moment. She wasn't sure when she moved, but she was pretty sure it was her will that broke. Her hand reached out to him and her lips pressed against his, moving softly against his.
Just like that, she felt the thrill run through her, relief overwhelming her panic. Snow responded, deepening their kiss, his hands pulling her close and closer still.
It felt wrong, so wrong, and exactly like what she wanted, all at the same time.
Lightning leaned her forehead against his, her hands braced on his chest. She didn't have to press them against him with any amount of force to keep his assault on her lips at bay, she held him back with her eyes and her shivering arms. This was completely wrong, the opposite of what she had intended. There was no control over her mind as it raced, her heart as it pounded, her breath as it caught in her throat. Yet all of it hardly mattered as his breath tickled her lips in a steady rhythm. How had she ever resisted the urge to hold him so close?
"Lightning?" he whispered.
"Don't," Lightning said, her hand flying to cover his lips with her cold fingers. "Don't say anything. I can barely do this as it is."
"I'm sorry," Snow said, shame making him sit back, putting space back between them.
"I can't take you from Serah," she said softly. The urge to fight surged up in her chest but she pushed it down, letting it be replaced by the instinct to flee. Her muscles tightened in anticipation.
It took her a moment to realize that she hadn't heard a word that Snow had said. Her eyes finally obeyed her and opened again. There he was still, anger etching his masculine features, wrinkled into his brow uncomfortably.
"Why?" he asked. "Why are you so intent on hurting yourself?"
The laugh escaped her lips before she could choke it down. "I would rather...rather that it be me that feels like this, don't you see?"
"It's not fair to you, Lightning," Snow said.
"It's not fair to her either," she snapped. "It's selfish."
"Do you think so?" he asked. His tone made her look up at him, his eyes capturing hers. "Who's to say what's selfish anymore? None of us are happy."
"You don't mean this," Lightning said. She wanted to be firm but her voice wavered ever so slightly. "You won't be happy if you get this either, because she's going to get hurt."
"Damned if I do," Snow said slowly. "Damned if I don't." He paused for a moment before adding, "I mean this."
Lightning tore her gaze away and stood to leave, but his large hand grabbed her wrist. Suddenly he was turned her back around and his lips descended on hers again, demanding, insistent and desperate. She pushed him away.
"Please, Snow," she begged, shocked at the very words spilling from her lips. "I can't...it has to stop."
"I mean this," he said.
It shot through her like a chill and she nearly trembled.
"I can't forget about her," he whispered. "But I mean this, with you, I've always meant it."
Lightning felt her stomach roll. It was too tempting, to step into her sister's shoes and not look back. Was she really this weak? He stroked a hand across her cheek. She wouldn't run, and she wouldn't deny it any longer. She sent a silent apology to Serah, feeling her shame burn for an instant before she forgot, lost in Snow's eyes.
His name from her lips invigorated him and he kissed her again, tenderly this time. Lightning was done in. Everything she had envied, everything she had craved had fallen into her lap. This type of passion had never been hers, yet she was quickly claiming ownership of it and it felt too wonderful to pull away. His touch was much heavier than Hope's, experienced with years of touching his wife.
She shivered at his lips on her neck and he undid the belt around her middle. She hadn't changed her attire much from her Guardian Corps uniform, liking the familiar feel and freedom of it. The shirt she wore fell open at the neck. She felt him pull away and her mind protested, not wanting him to change his mind.
"What's this?" Snow asked, his thumb hovering over a point on her neck. She bent her head to see it but it was out of her field of vision. "Is this a...hickey?"
Lightning scowled. "What?"
Snow's eyes darkened and he kissed her again, demanding her attention. It was as if seeing the love bite had set his resolve and Lightning wondered if she would be able to regain any semblance of control, over herself or him. She had to do something if she wanted it to stop, but as she thought of Serah, she thought of laying in that bed, the words that haunted her and begged to be said aloud to Snow.
It wasn't her place, and, although, it wasn't her place in his arms either, it was a different kind of wrongness. It was a wrongness that she pushed aside and kissed him back. She let the guilt and the shame fall away as he ran his hands over her shoulders. It was bliss to finally experience Snow beside her, his lips and his hands on her body in the most indecent of ways.
It was different than with other men.
She meant it too.
AN: I know I haven't updated in over a year, so I apologize to anyone who might have been following this story. I stumbled on my drafts for the end of this story and finally decided it was time to at least work on it a bit.