In light of Closer being completed, I bring what might become a much lighter, fluffier fic. I need a break from the apparent sadness that circled around my last fic. But you never know, it might turn out to be like the last.

EVENTUALLY I'll branch out, or maybe I'll stay in FF-land, who knows? Mwahaha, enjoy.

Beta-ing done by SinisterPurr!

Because I Can Make You Smile

Secrets

I'm not exactly sure why she decided to drag us back to the waterscape; it wasn't high on our to-do list as we ran around trying to save (or destroy) Cocoon. The entire time she was chiming away that it was worth the trip.

I didn't believe her.


"How come you never smile?"

Lightning blinked, finding herself completely caught off guard by the sudden outburst from the ginger-haired girl. She was smiling as the sergeant turned back, leaning over ever so slightly with a glimmer in her eyes. Lightning found herself frowning, hand on her hip as she considered her reply.

"I smile."

"When?"

"When it's necessary."

Now that didn't fall under any of Vanille's suitable replies. To that she furrowed her brow in confusion and tilted her head. "When its necessary?"

"Yes."

"But smiles aren't necessary."

Apparently, Lightning's point was avoiding her. "Exactly."

"Well, that's no fun."

With an irritated sigh, the sergeant turned from her contemplating companion and continued down the road. They had arrived at the docks a while ago, and though the others had pressed ahead, Vanille had insisted that both of them stay behind and enjoy the scenery.

What scenery? It's barren here and there's water. Not exactly worth noting.

Of course, now they were moving but they were walking at a pace that was beyond slow. They hadn't gotten very far between Vanille's completely random questions and when she insisted on stopping (and she insisted a lot). Stopping to view the most random and pointless of things, which was really beginning to grate on the soldier's patience.

"Vanille..."

"Hm?" She caught up with a skip.

"Why do you inspect every single rock like it's fascinating?"

"Because they are!"

Lightning wondered why on Cocoon she had expected a logical, sound answer from the one person in the world who was incapable of such a thought pattern. Honestly, she would like to believe she learned her lesson from every other time she questioned Vanille on something. The only redeeming feature of the woman is she had an astounding amount of energy; she could go on for hours walking, while the rest of the crew just complained about something.

Optimism. Great.

Lightning hated optimists. Snow was one such example of those blind people who cannot see the world and life for what it was. It was hard and cruel. It didn't forgive and most certainly did not forget ones transgression against it. For example, there were numerous soldiers back in the Guardian Corps that raved about cheating death. They would go on about how they were invincible and drink until they could drink no more..

One died of alcohol poisoning.

Another, hit by a motorist. Oh, that was rich, the man had said how a behemoth trampled him and he survived, but a lone, low flying hoverbike hits him and off with his head!

Literally.

The third had gone home with two women. Two women, who, in their provocative nature, had driven the slightly aged soldier to have a heart attack. Not that they were sad, instead they had stolen anything they could and made a run for Palumpolem. Lightning had caught them, and it was revealed they had hoped they could sell the items and get rich as the stolen property was lost in all the vendors.

Good plan, but using a dead man's credit chip, kind of left an easy trail to follow.

There were various other tales of how optimists had met such unfortunate ends. Lightning found solace in them, though she still wondered why a particularly tall, annoying optimist hadn't died yet. Admittedly, he was far less annoying than she had originally assumed, but having to save the world often inspires such thoughts.

So, having to put up with another one was irritating. The only happy-go-lucky person the sergeant had ever been able to bear for more then an hour without some sort of break was Serah.

Well, she's dead now.

That thought stung, though Lightning hid the feeling behind her slightly irritated scowl. Vanille had now taken to skipping merrily along ahead. Though not that far, Lightning had learned quickly that the red-head was much like a small child, she needed constant attention and shouldn't be allowed to run off ahead. If she let such things happen then in someway, Vanille would let out a shriek and hurt herself.

So as Lightning once again was drawn out of her thoughts, she froze in her spot. Eyes scanning the cliff side like area.

Where was Vanille?

"LIGHTNING!"

Damn it...

The soldier burst into a sprint and came spiraling around the corner to see what happened.

Nothing, other than now Vanille was giggly and ignoring the death glare she was receiving from her caretaker.

"Vanille..."

"You should've seen your face!"

"Next time you scream, I'm not going to run."

"Aww," the girl pouted, crossing her arms. "Why are you so angry all the time? Fang would've laughed."

"That's fantastic," Lightning countered coldly. "I'm not Fang."

"Were you worried about me?" The girl was so inquisitive; she was almost like a kitten.

Oh I'm going to regret this answer. "Yes."

"You care about me!"

And now Lightning was being embraced in a hug.

Dear god in heaven...

Her face twitched and she tensed, she had only hugged Hope. That was because she could relate to the boy, the girl now clinging so happily too her was as far as you could get from Lightning. The sergeant gritted her teeth, almost feeling a vein pop as she tried to get over what Vanille had just done.

That spatial boundary that everyone had... Hers had just been crossed. Not even Snow dared to break it this bad.

"Vanille..."

"Hm?"

"Let. Go."

"OH!" She backed away, giggling nervously. "Sorry."


Time passed quickly after that as they kept pushing ahead. The conversation kept to a minimum thanks to Lightning's shining personality. She was too busy thinking about how to save Cocoon and escape their fate, whether or not Fang and Vanille woke up was entirely besides the point. An eternal sleep wasn't something she found tempting, especially because she was quite prone to nightmares.

Vanille was humming, bouncing along with a smile on her face. She was careful not to get too far ahead from her friend, wanting to be able to point out anything she found interesting.

If she points at another rock, I'll shoot it. I swear to whatever fal'Cie is listening-

"Fang!"

Lightning was brought out of her daze by the sudden appearance of the tribeswoman, who was closely followed by Hope. The boy greeted Vanille happily, before he smiled at Lightning and waved a tad. His eyes seemed to light up as the sergeant nodded to him.

"Where are Snow and Sazh?" She questioned, scanning the area.

"Eh, back at camp." Fang replied. "They decided that the camp needed a man's touch."

"Oh..." Lightning frowned.

"It's as bad as you imagined."

Wonderful.

"We were waiting for you," Hope threw in. "Hoping you might, um... Get the camp back for us?"

"You can't get it back yourselves?" Her eyes flicked challenging to Fang.

"I could... But you enjoy bursting their bubble."

"Snow's cooking isn't he?"

Fang's expression turned desperate. "Dear Maker, it's horrible. Please, stop him."

"It smells like the chocobo farm..." Hope commented, his face turning to that of disgust.

Vanille looked a little confused. "His cooking isn't that bad…"

"Vanille, you've never ate what he's made." Fang began to lead the way. "I've always made you something. Decided to spare you the horror."

"Oh!"


Lightning's quick pace made her take the lead from Fang, arms crossed as she strode past them all. Vanille couldn't help watch, admiring the woman in secret. She was like Fang in a way, very strong-willed and a leader, but something was different about her as well. Fang was much more optimistic, she wasn't so down on life and anti-social. The girl found herself wondering how many friends their leader ever head.

There's Serah... She didn't like Snow until recently... Probably some people from the army?

She never talked about any of that. Though it shouldn't have, it concerned Vanille. She had been there for nearly everyone when they had been down, but Lightning. The woman had never shown that she needed help; she had always been strong for all of them.

Leaders don't cry, she supposed as her eyes left Lightning and went to the sky above them.

Does she cry when we're not looking?

Soldiers don't cry either; people seemed to tell her this a lot. Vanille frowned; she had never understood either rule.

Why not?

"Something wrong?" Hope questioned, nudging Vanille. She had fallen a little behind.

"Huh?" Vanille looked around, confused. "Oh, no! Just thinking!"

"Right..." The boy smirked. "Thought I could smell wood burning."

"Hey!"

And then Hope was off, running past both Fang and Lightning as Vanille chased after him.


"So?"

Lightning gave Fang a half-curious glance. "What?"

"What did Vanille want you to stick around to see back there?"

The sergeant let out a long, irritated sigh before she kept moving. "Nothing."

"Nothing?" Fang blinked, catching up. "She just wanted to dilly-dally?"

"Yes." Lightning's tone was deadly. "She stopped to comment on every insignificant rock she saw."

The tribeswoman laughed. "Maybe they're significant to her?"

Lightning didn't dignify that response with a reply of her own. She let out another annoyed sigh before she walked a bit faster. Already her nostrils were flaring, both from frustration and a strange, almost alien scent on the wind. There was no doubt about what it was, not in her mind anyway.

Fal'Cie help me, what has that moron made now?


"I don't see why no one wanted to even try it…" Snow murmured, leaning back against one of the fallen logs. "It wasn't that bad."

Lightning kept silent as the rest of the group bickered. Once she had arrived, she had promptly put both men in their place and allowed Fang to rescue what was left of the meal. They were on the border between the barren coast and the forest, so their camp was quite neatly placed off the trail, just in case any PSICOM soldiers decided to patrol this particular speck of nowhere.

We don't have time for this. Lightning grumbled inside her head, gently beginning to clean her weapon. Our lifelines are literally ticking down, and per request we're here, doing absolutely nothing.

She was a soldier first and foremost, and soldiers didn't waver from the plan. Vanille had managed to convince the entire group that going back to the waterscape was a good idea. She had blabbered on about being a nice break from the norm and how spirits would be enlightened.

This was a joke in Lightning's mind. Enlightenment wouldn't be reached from neglecting duty.

"Hey, Light!"

Speak of the devil, Vanille plopped herself next to her pink-haired friend. Lightning didn't look up from her gun, her face that of a calm and collected soldier. Showing how annoyed she was would only make the girl try harder at whatever she was doing.

"How are you?"

Not even a glance in the girl's direction. "Fine."

"You're really quiet."

She didn't like pointless conversation. For obvious reasons.

"Hm."

"Are you angry?"

Lightning glanced at Vanille, who seemed generally interested in the woman's emotions. Her eyes went back to her Blaze Edge soon after however, as she flicked the switch and began to clean the blade.

"No."

"Really?"

"Really."

"Snow said you only clean your weapon when you're angry." The girl seemed to believe the idiot's word over hers.

I'm always cleaning my weapon…

"Well, he's wrong." Lightning grumbled, ignoring Snow's subtle insult to her mood.

"So, why don't you come and sit with us?"

Lightning looked up, the sky was turning dark and the temperature was beginning to drop. Not that the woman liked to admit it, but that fire everyone was huddled around was far more tempting than contemplating out of the warmth's reach. Her eyes caught Vanille's for a second, and in that instant the girl knew she had won. She beamed, but managed to keep her smile cute and small before bouncing up and hurrying over to the others.

Hope scooted over as Lightning came up beside him; she plucked down next to him. Continuing to clean her blade, but not before she shot a glare at Snow. The man shrugged, a smirk on his face as he went back to listening to Sazh's tale of shopping in Palompolem with a hyper child.

"You've finally decided to join us?" Fang barked, catching everyone's attention.

All eyes were on Lightning for the briefest of moments.

"It would seem so." She countered; narrowing her eyes a smidge.

"Hey, you probably got a whole bunch of stories." Sazh gestured to the woman. "Funny ones too, from being a soldier."

The sergeant was stone-faced and silent.

"He means share." Snow chuckled. "All of us have given one."

"No." The woman went back to cleaning her blade.

"Come on, Light," Hope nudged her gently, catching a slightly taken back expression in the woman's eyes. "You've got to have some."

Now Hope's betraying me for this lot? Urgh.

"I…" She floundered for words, hoping to hide it behind a mask of graceful hindrance. "No."

"She has one." Fang smirked, "She's just nervous."

You witch…

"What's there to be nervous about?" Vanille cocked her head to one side before looking back at Lightning.

Her eyes were softer than Fang's, a light green that seemed to sparkle with as much life as the girl could contain. There was also a sign of hidden intelligence, like the girl only wanted to play the happy-go-lucky one.

You know more than you're letting on...

"Please, Lightning?" She pouted, and Lightning could do nothing but sigh.

"Tch…" She clicked her tongue, looking at the fire as she thought. "Fine, but just one."

Vanille smiled, leaning forward excitedly. For the briefest of seconds, Lightning felt something change. She was apprehensive about talking to the group, that they might judge her on what she found amusing (though some would argue she was incapable of finding anything funny). But Vanille, she made that disappear.

To hell with what they all thought, the only person Lightning wanted to make laugh, was the girl staring at her so intently. The sergeant broke the gaze only to put her weapon away. She stared at her knees for a moment, mulling through the stories and experiences dancing in her head. She paused once she remembered one that involved a noble and a rather large turtle.

I'm never going to hear the end of it after this…

"So," Lightning began, sitting up straight.