They arrived at the train station early. The train had been one of the first Pulsan artifacts to be restored and out into use. It was a lot different than it had been so long ago. Notably, it carried passengers, which in Oerba's previous life, it had not. Now, the tracks had been expanded and the station had been moved a bit, more toward the side of town, leaving the edge of the water to be taken up by a hotel and an apartment building.
To some degree, Fang hated it. She hated how the face of her childhood home had been defiled and changed. At the same time, she understood that it was inevitable. Oerba had to change or fade into history.
The station itself was huge, as it had to accommodate the increased amount of inhabitants, as well as travelers, and the traditional roles of the train as transport for equipment and materials. With construction still happening pretty much everywhere, those roles took on a new importance.
To their surprise, the rest of the family had turned out, braving the early morning to see Fang off. Tearful hugs were shared, joking threats of getting hunted down if she didn't return were made. They laughed, everyone pretending this was normal; pretending there was no danger.
Lightning knew better. She knew how dangerous this was, and she was still rather upset at Fang for not reconsidering. In her heart, though, she knew she couldn't be angry. Fang rarely let anyone see her fall apart, but Light had seen it several times, often revolving around loss. Loss of her home, friends and everything she'd ever known before turning to crystal the first time. No one else, not even Vanille knew how hard that loss had shaken Fang.
That was what they were for each other. They were the emotional stability, the pillar to lean against in their weakest moments, the shield to keep prying eyes from seeing too much. It was hard to show weakness in front of the family. It was more expected of Fang than Light, but it affected the group, and was therefore hidden more often than not.
Lightning watched as Dajh hugged Fang. He was sniffling a bit. Dajh, now getting into his preteen years, wasn't really used to the idea of people going away for long periods of time. He didn't really seem to know what to make of the whole situation. Sazh put a hand on his son's shoulder as he backed away from Fang. "It'll be ok."
Dajh nodded slightly, a bright smile settling onto his face. "Yeah, Fang is the strongest ever!"
Everyone laughed, even Snow after a slighted, "Hey!" Well, everyone except Light.
"Tch." She crossed her arms over her chest and looked away, feeling separate from the group for the first time in the last few years.
She felt Fang move closer to her. "Now now Sunshine.. no need to be sour." She turned to look at her as Fang grinned, "You can be the strongest while I'm away yeah?" Again the group laughed, and this time, Light's soft chuckle joined in.
They began to move inside, sharing stories and catching up on things since the last time they had all been together. Lightning trailed behind, taking the opportunity to look at them and think on how far they had all come.
Sazh had gone back to piloting; mostly running small, scenic tours to show people the beautiful landscapes that Gran Pulse offered. Dajh had grown up quite a bit, but he was a good kid. Sarah and Snow often watched him after school if Sazh was working.
Sarah and Snow had gotten married shortly after Fang and Vanille had woken from their crystal sleep. They seemed mostly the same, at least for now. Light knew that would change soon, as they'd finally decided things had settled enough for them to try for children.
Hope had grown into a fine young man, attending one of the small universities that had been set up. He was studying to be an engineer, which didn't surprise her in the least. She was proud of him really. At first, she'd been afraid he would shut down after he lost his mother, but he'd grown so much during their time as l'cie, and now he was far better adjusted than she'd ever been since losing her parents.
Of course, he still had his father. Bartholomew had really connected with him once they were reunited. Everyone was glad to see he'd survived, and he was welcomed as part of the 'family'. These days, he was doing government work, still fighting the good fight from the inside.
Vanille had certainly grown up. Though still as perky as she'd ever been, she definitely had a more adult air about her. She was more responsible these days. She married just recently. Light looked back on that somewhat bitterly. It had been Vanille's marriage that had brought about Fang's recent breakdown, and she wasn't even aware of it. She couldn't blame her though. Her husband was a good man, and had been accepted into the family easily. Besides, everyone had to grow up right?
Had she grown herself? Looking back, she realized that she and Fang had hardly changed at all, save for what the others had forced upon them. Light was forced to grow when Sarah moved out; and Fang, similarly when Vanille had. Fang had drawn Light out of her shell somewhat, but that was bound to happen after everything anyhow.
Had they really grown? They both begrudgingly accepted change, but neither of them really seemed to care for it; until recently anyhow. So much change between them in the span of little more than a week. Light suspected that Fang's need for change was partially out of fear. The same fear Lightning now felt herself facing once again. Would she end up alone?
Fang was happy to see everyone turn out to wish her a safe trip, but she couldn't shake the annoyance of their presence either. There was no way Lightning would say or do anything in front of all of them. She wasn't even sure what she expected or wanted her to do, she only wished for a few more moments between them. She realized they had had nearly a week with little interruption, but somehow it hadn't seemed enough. It had breezed by so quickly it was little more than a hazy memory.
She was barely listening to everyone as they talked and laughed. Vanille had moved to her side and took her hand. She smiled at her sister and the understanding inn her eyes. Vanille knew this was important to her. Having her support meant more than she could express. She hugged her to her side as they walked, but let her go after a moment. They shared a glance. Between them, it was enough.
She half turned, looking for her Sunshine, who she was saddened to see was trailing behind, as if she wasn't part of the group. She looked lost in thought. She wondered what she was thinking about. Lightning met her eyes, but lowered her gaze to the ground. Fang frowned again and hesitated, but finally looked forward again, laughing half heartedly at some story Vanille was telling about their childhood.
Once inside, she broke off from the group to move toward the counter. Lightning followed her silently, while the others milled about some benches still laughing at Vanille's story.
She placed the receipt for her ticket on the counter, along with the ID card she'd been issued shortly after she awoke. Silently, the clerk took the receipt and her ID. She checked the ID against the records, and then handed it back to her before moving to print her actual ticket. After a moment, she returned and handed her both the ticket and the receipt. "Unfortunately, the morning train is delayed."
"Any idea how long?" she asked, partially happy to spend more time with the family, but partially annoyed with how things were getting so drawn out.
Beside her, Lightning crossed her arms over her chest, making her shoulder plate prominent to the clerk. "What caused the delay?" Fang saw the clerk look at the plate. She could tell he was trying to decide how much info he could give.
"There was a derailment somewhere near Paddra. They're cleaning it up, but I'm not really sure how long it will take, or how bad it is. They'll make an announcement when it pulls in."
Light nodded, obviously a little irritated. As they moved away from the desk, she pulled out her com unit. "I could find out-"
Fang cut her off with a shake of her head and a hand on her wrist. "Leave it be. We have a little more time, let's just enjoy it yeah?"
Light looked down at Fang's hand on her wrist. "..Alright."
Somehow, they ended up at a small diner within the station. Lightning wasn't entirely sure how the decision had been made, but she supposed it would be good for Fang to eat before she headed out into the wilderness.
Everyone moved around the table, vying for seats. Light irritably noticed Vanille settle next to Fang, who had been more or less forced next to Snow, much to her obvious distaste. They shared a look, and for just a moment, Light could see the apology in Fang's eyes. She nodded in return, missable by anyone who wasn't looking for it; her way of letting her know that she wasn't upset. Her gaze slid back over to Vanille, who was looking at her with an odd look on her face. She was smiling, but her eyes told a whole different story.
'She's still mad at me,' she sighed mentally and settled between Sarah and Hope.
Breakfast turned into some fiasco as the others shared stories and recounted their adventures as L'Cie. Sarah, Dadj and Vanille's husband were utterly fascinated while Bartholomew listened politely. Light had no idea how they could still be interested after hearing the same stories over and over again.
She stared down at her plate, ignoring the banter. She felt selfish. She didn't want to be here, didn't want to share what could be her last moments with Fang surrounded by others and kept at arms length by the quietly vengeful Vanille. Maybe she shouldn't have argued about the train. Maybe she should have let Fang simply head out from Oerba on foot. She'd at least have been able to tag along for awhile, while she knew the others wouldn't have done more than gather to see her off.
"-So then Light fell and Fang grabbed her. I swear she was flushed red from embarrassment but still looked outwardly cool and collected!" They all laughed as Lightning looked up, catching the conversation only because Hope had enthusiastically elbowed her in the side.
"Nah nah, she wasn't flushed; she was covered in Hybrid Flora goop. Really, you guys are just tryin' to start things." Fang smirked.
"You could have warned me they were immune to physical damage." Light spoke up, entering the conversation for the first time.
"I coulda, Vanille coulda; but it was just so damned amusing watching you hack at it with your gunblade."
Now Fang laughed. "I was actually pretty surprised you didn't hit it with Libra first anyhow." Really, she hadn't been. Lightning had been pissed off at the time; reckless.
"Lightning!" Hope called to her as she raced ahead. She didn't stop, so he paused a moment to glare at Snow, who was scratching the back of his head sheepishly.
"Guess she's touchy today huh?" he chuckled in that nervous way; the way he did when he knew he messed up.
"C'mon!" Vanille piped up, running between them, turning to move backward for a few steps as she spoke, "We should go back her up!"
Snow and Sazh looked to Fang, who didn't seem in all that much of a hurry. She just shrugged. Lightning was angry. It happened a lot, especially when Snow couldn't keep his gorilla mouth shut. His offhand comment about Sarah had set the elder Farron off- again. Fang was content to let her blow off some steam before catching up to join in whatever fight Lightning decided to pick. She moved to follow Vanille, but did so a bit slow. The others fell into step with her.
When they reached the ledge, Lightning was nowhere to be seen. They each scanned the small clearing and surrounding ledges. "There!" Hope called out, pointing to a shaded corner of the clearing.
Lightning had come across two Hybrid Flora, and apparently decided they looked good to kill in her ire. "She shouldn't hit them commando.." Vanille commented as they watched Lightning approach them with her blade out, intentions obvious.
As Vanille moved to climb down to help, Fang put a hand on her shoulder. "Give 'er a minute."
"She'll be fine."
They watched as their leader began to cut into the goopy creatures, seemingly unaware that they were simply sealing up any damage she thought she was doing. When the moment of recognition flashed on Light's face, Fang knew she was over her rage. "Alright, off we go then." She jumped off the ledge, Vanille hot on her heels.
As she neared the fight, Fang tossed a ruinega spell, catching the Flora off guard and allowing her and Vanille enough time to move up next to her. "Hit 'em with fire."
"Right." Lightning acknowledged, eying the pinkish ooze dripping from her blade. For a moment, their brands burned as they settled into their roles. Fang continued to taunt the two creatures together, making it easier for Lightning and Vanille to hit them at the same time with Fira.
They melted into a bubbly pool before the boys even caught up. "Hey, way to go!" Snow said enthusiastically as they approached. He moved a little too close to Lightning, who backed up a step to maintain her personal space. Her boot slipped on a stray glob of Flora ooze.
"Light!" Snow missed when he went to grab her. Luckily, Fang was more on her toes. She lunged over the side of the ledge and managed to grab Lightning's hand, using her free one to hold onto her lance, which was keeping them both from falling further.
"Just another fun day, eh Sunshine?"
Fang smiled at the memory, then realized breakfast was over. Sazh was saying that he had to get Dadj to school. Vanille's husband apparently hadn't been able to take the day off work. Hope had some project he was working on for his university classes, and his dad had some meeting or another. Her smile shifted to a frown for only a moment before she stood and began to hug each of them goodbye.
Light watched as she thanked them for coming out, and they wished her a safe trip.
Cards were swiped to pay for breakfast and the now smaller group moved out of the diner.
They found some open space on some benches and got comfy.
"How long do you think it will be?" Sarah asked, glancing between Light and Fang, who were once again separated by Vanille. The contrast between them was amusing. Fang was slumped with her back against the wall, legs crossed and arms folded over her chest. Sarah half smiled at how grumpy she looked.
On the other side of Vanille, Light sat with her back straight, refusing to touch the wall. Her legs were crossed too, but her hands were clasped together and resting on her knee. Sarah could recognize that as a sign of her irritation.
She wasn't entirely sure why Vanille was being petty. She knew the situation, and Vanille had even admitted that Light had apologized several times. So why step in in such a way? She didn't understand, she thought Vanille wanted them to get together too. She gave Vanille a confused look, but her attention was drawn when Light spoke.
"They aren't sure."
"You guys don't have to stick around if you have other things to do.. I'm grateful for ya comin' out, but there's no need t'sit around here." She could tell Fang really was grateful, but also hopeful that they would leave. She looked to Snow.
"Well... I did tell Lebrau I would help her with some renovations at the cafe." Sarah nodded idly, she was supposed to help too, but she didn't want to leave Vanille with the not-quite couple since she was being a bit of a brat about it all. "Since the train was suppose to be here and gone already. we figured it wouldn't be an issue.."
Fang nodded and stood to say goodbye, not really giving him a chance to change his plans. But when she turned to Sarah, the smaller girl shook her head. "I'd like to stay.. I'll come by the cafe later ok?"
Snow nodded. "Ok. She'll understand. She was going to come out too, but was afraid Light might go on the offencive." They all chuckled, but Light looked sour. Lebreau's constant flirting with Fang was fairly well known. Light knew Fang wasn't interested in her, as true to her word, she'd remained faithful despite the lack of actual relationship. Fang would flirt back though, and Light wondered if she did it just to get a rise outof her. Often, when she witness said flirting,. her mood would swiftly and obviously shift. Once she started looking annoyed or angry, Fang usually shut Lebreau down, which she appreciated, but also made her wonder more.
An hour later, the four women continued to wait. The moment Vanille bounced up to go to the ladies room, Fang capitalized on the open space and moved next to Lightning.
The station was getting busier by the minute as the passengers piled up with the lack of trains. People were irritable, some trying to get back to other budding cities to go home, or visit family and friends. With the greater amount of people, the noise level continued to raise as well.
Vanille returned and wordlessly settled on the other side of Fang, even as Sarah moved to Light's free side. Fang was the first to lean over and rest her head on her shoulder, but Sarah wasn't far behind. A quick glance confirmed that Vanille was leaning against Fang as well. Mentally. she sighed, but physically she relaxed some, finally leaning back against the wall to find a more comfortable position.
It wasn't long before she realized all three of them had dozed off. Her sister had curled up more against her, her smaller form fitting under her arm. Fang on the other hand, was too tall to make that comfortable for either af them, and was still resting her head on her shoulder. She'd lulled forward just a little, her haid falling to hide some of her face from Lightning's view.
She watched her, breaking in and out, even and consitent; sleeping peacefully. Her eyes moved rapidly beneath the lids. Light wondered what she was dreaming of.
In her mind's eye,. a memory returned to her, unbidden.
"Oh, just say what's on your mind Sunshine." Fang stated playfully, her ever-present smirk softening just a bit.
"I hate that nickname." She replied with a smirk of her own.
"That's a start! Now tell me what was bothing you just a moment ago."
She hesitated. "I don't see why it's important. Saying things doesn't change how they are."
Fang tilted her head to the left, the small braid that peaked out from behind her ear shifted and provided Light with something to look at that wasn't the warriors eyes. "Words are important. Sometimes, they're everything." She shifted her hands almost in a shrug. "Sometimes, they're nothing. Sometimes. they're the first step to change."
Lights eyes narrowed in thought. It was a surprisingly insightful thing for Fang to say. She maintained her silence as she thought about it. Fang simply waited. "I was thinking on what difficulties lie ahead." Fang remained silent, her expression turning somber. She knew Lightning wasn't talking about this adventure they were all stuck on. "If we do survive this.. Everything is going to change."
"Change ain't necessarily bad."
"No. But it can be hard."
"That's what family is for. We help each other. Ease the pains and give a hand to the next step."
Words. Everything and nothing. The First steps to change.
She became aware of all the people around them; listened to snippets of conversations. A moment of anxiety made her wonder if anyone was talking about them, about her. She easily settled into her old standby role and got instantly defencive. Who were these people anyhow? Who was the man at the counter ordering his coffee? He wasn't anyone. He didn't matter. A woman was reading a map aloud to her spouce. She didn't matter either.
But even as she scrutinized everyone around her, she realized, she ought to be looking more at herself. These people didn't care. No one even spared them a second glance. Who was she? Who was she, being this woman's friend, all the while denying how she really felt?
The realization hit her rather hard. She had been denying her feelings. She loved Fang. She was in love with Fang.
Her attention moved back down to the woman sleeping on her shoulder. She'd slept through all the noise that Light could no longer filter out, oblivious to the epiphany she'd come to. Her heart caught in her throat. She was.. afraid. Afraid of this moment ending. Afraid that Fang would never return. Afraid of being along. Afraid that she couldn't even admit it, even if she knew it was true.
Vaguely she heard the clattering of the train in the background. A cheer ran through some of the crowed, others just quickly shuffled toward the platform. The noise began to wake the three.
Her family. Her sister and Fang were the most important people in her life, she realized. Extended beyond them was Snow and Vanille, and then the rest of their l'cie partners; family forged in fire. Now she understood.
Fang lifted off her shoulder, stretching and moving into an upright position once Vanille sat up. She rubbed idly at the indentation on her cheek where it had been pressed against Light's jacket too long. Slowly she realized the train had finally arrived.
They all stood and made their way toward the ramp to find out how things were going to go with so many passengers backed up.
A list of passengers from the earliest missed trains went up on the screens. They would be the first ones to board. Fang's name was listed. She turned to Light. "Guess this is it eh?"
Lightning couldn't even speak. Vanille and Sarah moved to hug Fang once again, wishing her a safe trip, and a speedy return home. She found herself staring at Fang, the words still refusing to come. Fang looked uncertain of what to think, and looked away to the people boarding the train before looking back to her again. "Well anyway.." She said as she hugged Light, though it wasn't returned, "I'll see you around.." She turned and headed for the train.
Sarah and Vanille were looking between Light and Fang, unsure what to say or do.
She wasn't sure if she was really hearing it or if it was just in her head, but she could hear Fang humming. Why would she be humming? For comfort? For who?
Lightning finally moved. It was, to her like time had fast forwarded from Fang sleeping on her shoulder to now. It was as if the world had passed her by, and now she had to catch up.
Blindly, she pushed her way through the crowed, desperate to catch up to her before she got onto the train. "FANG!" She called above the din.
Fang turned just in time to catch her as Light to ran into her. She held her like that as Light finally met her eyes. "I.. I love you. Come home soon."
Fang's gaze softened and her lips brushed against Light's for only a moment. "I promise."
Light watched the train pull away, Sarah and Vanille on either side of her, both trying to give her the support she needed. These were her sisters. She put and arm around both of the shorter girls' shoulders and pulled them a little closer. They would all get through this together.
Goodness! This was supposed to be a one shot. Haha! And now the other story I had started in bits and pieces is being reworked to be a continuation of this.
Originally, I was going to leave the ending open, letting each reader interpret their own way.. I admit I kind of love angst and unhappy endings, but now I don't think I can do that :)
I will also be working on a bunch of shorts that fit before this story happens, to fill in more background. I'm not sure exactly how encompassing it will be.. it's currently just a collection of small flashback scenes I wanted to work into this, but didn't really feel fit here. So rest assured there is more to come!
Please let me know what you think!
Also, I wanted to thank chelsea1030 (on deviantart) for drawing a Canthor! it's pretty close to how I envisioned it!
There is a link in my profile if anyone can't find it :)
Edit: sorry for the reups.. I was fixing some format errors!