Disclaimer: If I owned anything, Lightning would have had an accident with her cape. Like getting stuck somewhere when she's executing some of those awesome flips and jumps?
A/N: I'm at the end of my holiday. I had originally planned to get at least eight chapters out by this time, but my procrastination is wicked. I'll continue to upload this slowly though. Many thanks to those who are actively following this fic.
Reflections – Gran Pulse Style
I trust you with my life. So trust me with yours.
The surrealism, the novelty, died out after a day or two. After that, reality landed on their lap and they had to face the simple fact that no matter how beautiful, how peaceful appearing Pulse was, everyday, everywhere, was a battle for survival. And for every wrong move, every lapse of attention, there was a price to pay. Usually a battle. As such, Pulse had hardened them in a way that not even the most rigorous of Cocoon's combat training could.
Right now, nothing comes as a surprise anymore. Big giant tortoises that can kill all of them in one step? Bring it on, though avoidance was still the favored choice. Behemoths of many varieties? Throttle them. Wyverns? We'll haul them to the ground. Flans? Piece of cake. Cie'th? History. It's kill or be killed. Anything that stands in their way was to be annihilated. They have to push forward, whatever the cost.
But this…this was just…
Lightning climbed further up the gorge to get a better view of the stretch of land below her.
This was just madness.
She had to admit that she's slowly converting into a supporter of mad plans, or worse, no plans, but in Pulse sometimes it's just too unpredictable to have plans. However, there's got to be a limit to how mad a mad plan should be allowed to go. And there was no way she was going to give this one a green light.
The former Guardian Corps soldier sighed, looking beyond the plains to their targeted destination. The Mah'habara Subterra. They have been on the Steppe for days and apparently the only way out was through that underground network. That itself wasn't a problem. The entrance had to be just less than a mile away. It's what was between here and there that worried her.
Hundreds upon hundreds of gorgonopsids.
"You've got to be kidding me!"
She shared Sazh's sentiments exactly. No. Just no. There was madness, which had worked for them, and then there was plain stupid. Which she hated.
Fang settled in next to her, looking absolutely delighted. "Vanille! Come look!" she had one hand on her hips and the other above her eyes. "Five hundred years and they're still here!"
The other Pulsian popped up beside Fang. Her hands covered her mouth as she gasped. "You're right!"
Lightning couldn't understand for the life of her why they were excited by this. "Anything we should know?"
She surprised herself with how unnecessarily biting her tone was but Fang seemed rightly unperturbed. The taller woman turned towards her with that perpetual grin on her face.
"Gorgonopsid nesting ground. It's—"
"It's been here since we were kids!" Vanille exclaimed, not at all aware she'd cut Fang off.
Fang seemed not to mind anyway, patting Vanille's head. "That's right. Thought they would have moved, but it doesn't look like it."
"Nesting ground huh?" Lightning surveyed the plains once more. The beasts did seem to be divided into small groups scattered throughout the length of the area. "I don't see any young."
"At this time of the year? Not yet," Fang replied. "Lots of pregnant mothers though. You know what that means, don't you?"
Lightning shot Fang a look. Was she supposed to? Pregnant mothers…the only thing she could conjure from that was big bellies, hormones, and mood swings. She wasn't exactly well versed in the condition. What did that have to do with this? Unfortunately, Fang's face didn't hold the answer.
"That means we're not taking this route."
There were immediately sighs of relief, most notably from Snow, and a little from Sazh. Hope made no sound, but visibly relaxed. Vanille was still beside herself with excitement to even notice the on goings and Fang, Fang actually looked disappointed. Did she get the pregnant mother's thing wrong? Did she even care?
"So what do we do now?" Hope asked.
Lightning turned to him before addressing Fang again. "Is there another route?"
Fang sighed. "We could go around it," she started, pointing eastward in a circular motion, "but that will take a whole day. And," she looked up to see the position of the sun, "it's past noon now. So we won't make it there by nightfall. We'll have to camp here and move out first thing tomorrow morning."
"Why do we have camp here? Why can't we just camp wherever we are at nightfall?"
"It's too exposed. Here's our best bet," Fang answered. "Or we could go there," she motioned towards the general direction of the Subterra. "where we'll have an actual roof over our heads for once."
Lightning narrowed her eyes at Fang. "You're saying..?"
Fang smirked, both hands on her hips. "I say we cross it."
"You're kidding!" Sazh exclaimed.
"Yeah! Sazh is right!" Snow began. "This is—"
Lightning didn't let him finish, glaring at Fang. "You're saying we fight through hundreds of those to have a roof over our heads?"
Her clipped voice seemed to finally attract Vanille's attention. She peeked over Fang's shoulder worriedly. "Fang…"
"No one said anything about fighting them," Fang reached around Vanille, pulling her forward. "I say we cross it, Gran Pulse style."
Vanille stumbled in Fang's arms, but froze when she heard what Fang said. Her eyes widened, searching the other's face. "Fang, you don't mean…?"
Fang smiled and nodded.
"But there are only two of us!"
"Exactly why it'll work."
"No!" Vanille protested. "That's too dangerous! You can't do it alone!"
"Yes I can. I've done it tons of times before, Vanille."
The voice that belonged to neither of them caught their attention. They both looked to the caller.
Lightning sighed. "You're going to let us in on it?"
Vanille turned away, probably embarrassed at their bickering. Fang just smiled. "Sorry. To put it simply, it's a technique that hunting parties used to use to cross areas such as these. Obviously we can't kill all of them, and finding a way around could take days sometimes."
"So what is this technique? It's not some crazy ass near impossible to pull off feat technique, is it?" Sazh asked impatiently.
Fang chuckled, shaking her head. "Don't worry. It's simple and both Vanille and I are well versed with it. Basically, we bait the beasts. Two people play the role of runners; they attract the beasts into chasing them while they run off to the side, creating an opening for the rest of the party to go over."
"And since there are only two of us who are familiar with it, I'll play runner and Vanille will lead the rest of you across."
Vanille whirled back to Fang. "No! First rule of running, Fang, never run alone!"
"Vanille, if you come with me, who's gonna lead them across?"
The younger girl stopped her next protest short, mouth already open. She glanced to their companions, all of which looked unsure at what's happening. All except Lightning.
"You can't just say, 'when the gorgonopsids start running, that's your cue'. You know as well as I do that crossing is a delicate business," Fang continued. "Besides, it's better that I go alone rather than have someone who can't keep up or don't know what they're doing tag along. One wrong move and it's death out there."
"Yes but—but you need someone to watch your back!"
"I've got m—"
"I've got your back."
Fang first seemed surprised at the sudden interruption but then the words set in and she brought up a hand to rub her face, sighing heavily at the all too familiar voice. "Light…"
"I'll run with you," her tone left no room for negotiation. Her decision was final.
"Ar-Are you sure, Light?" Hope looked at his mentor, the gorgonopsids, and back again. He gulped.
"So it's okay for Fang to go alone?" she questioned back at his seemingly lack of concern for the other woman. She gestured at the plains. "Against that?"
"Well no, but," his eyes darted to Fang briefly, before he fell silent.
Lightning patted his shoulder lightly. "Vanille is right. I'm going with you Fang."
"You know as well as I do that I can keep up. You just need to tell me what I have to do."
"This isn't a matter of capability. Novices die doing this. Even experienced runners can die running with inexperienced ones. Runners entrust their lives to each other. I won't—"
"I trust you with my life." She walked herself right in front of Fang, looking straight at the other. "So trust me with yours."
Fang's gaze softened just slightly. She tilted her head back, a snicker escaping her lips. "When will you stop cutting me off?"
"When you listen."
The taller woman exhaled a breath, and then stood straighter, meeting Lightning's eyes. "I trust you Light. That's been true since day one."
The corners of Lightning's mouth curved up into the smallest of a smirk. "Then what's the problem?"
Vanille readily jumped over to Lightning's side. "Please Fang? I won't do it if you go alone."
Fang's gaze shifted between the two women before she finally dropped her head. "Fine. But you're doing exactly as I say, Light."
"Okay, it seems everything is settled then," Snow announced. "We're going through with this plan without our consent," he motioned to himself and the other two males. "As usual."
"You have a better idea Snow?" Lightning shot back.
"No, no, I love the plan. Right guys?"
There was a unison of nods from the remaining two.
Fang snickered. "Let's get into positions then," she turned to Vanille, placing a hand on her shoulder. "Watch out for the cue, alright? I'll see you the other side."
Vanille pumped her fists by her chest. "Right!"
"Don't play around," Fang warned, already walking the opposite direction. Lightning wordlessly followed her.
"I won't. Stay safe Lightning!"
"Just Lightning? No love for Fang?"
"Oh, Fang knows what she's doing."
"That's an awful lot of trust."
A giggle. "Of course. We used to run together."
The rest of the conversation died out as Lightning walked further away from the group, trailing after Fang's back. She could see how Fang would be a runner but Vanille? The only type of running she'd seen the younger girl do what some sort of prancing that wasn't exactly very fast or effective. But then again, she didn't know a lot about Vanille. Or Fang, for that matter.
Fang threw a look over her shoulder, chuckling. "Doesn't seem like it, does it? Well you'd be surprised. She's pretty good at it too."
She made her way down the other side of the gorge behind Fang, mimicking the hunter's low stance as they were now in plain sight of the gorgonopsids, just about a hundred meters away. Close enough to smell them. She'd never shied away from gorgonopsid battles before, but never against this number. Even though their purpose wasn't to fight, it was a little unsettling. She was trained for combat, she didn't fear their enemies, but even she knew her limits. This was ridiculous. All her training told her that this was too risky, but Fang…
Said woman came to a stop, crouching behind a large rock at the base of the gorge, and she quickly joined her side. The Pulsian casually observed the pack, seemingly completely unconcerned. So like Fang. Apathetically confident. That should be worrying, so it was confounding that she felt exactly the opposite.
"What happens now?"
Fang twisted around, leaning back on the rock. "Now, I tell you what you gotta do while Vanille does the same with the rest. And then we wait a little to give her more time, since there's Snow in the other lot."
Lightning blinked. Did Fang mean that literally? "Right."
"There's two parts to a runner's job. The running and the attracting. No point in running when nothing's chasing."
"You know, screaming, shouting, waving your arms about…generally making yourself as noticeable as possible," Fang explained with a shrug.
Lightning scowled. No way. She agreed on the running. Not this. Screaming? Shouting? Waving her arms about? Making herself as noticeable as possible? That sounded like Vanille. Was she even capable of that? She's Lightning. A flash and she's gone.
"Hey, you insisted, Light," Fang seemed to have notice the scowl on her face, and was smirking. "You're not backing out on me now, are you?"
She scowled deeper. "You'd wish."
Fang smirked wider, raising a brow. "Just checking. Can't wait to see you out there."
Lightning wisely chose not to respond to that particular statement. She was sure that between them, she was the faster one, so that would put her in front of Fang at all times. In front of Fang…screaming, shouting, and waving her arms about. Lovely. Just lovely. Fang's smug expression told her that she was thinking of the exact same thing. Only without the sarcasm.
"Well then," the smirk was still in place, but Fang sat up and looked over at the gorgonopsids. "Now that you're clear with what you gotta do, let's get to the things you don't do."
She leaned in closer, following Fang's example and eyeing the creatures.
"Don't run too fast. We're bait. If you outrun them, they lose interest and turn back."
Lightning didn't even think it was physically possible for a bipedal to outrun a four legged predator, but she nodded anyway. Fang knows what she's doing after all, didn't she?
"It's a nesting ground, so we're a threat to territory, rather than food. Them coming after us will be more of a warning, they won't run at full speed. And not all will come after us, only the males, but don't worry about that. Vanille will take care of the rest."
Fang shrunk back down, turning to Lightning. "If you're out there and suddenly you find you don't know what you're doing, don't panic and don't show it. Just follow my lead. They can tell, and then they'll zero in on you."
She honestly wanted to scoff. Panic? Her? Just who did Fang take her for? Had they not been through enough battles together? But then she saw what was in the hunter's eyes, the very real concern, the total absence of mocking, and she doesn't say anything. She thought back to what Fang had said, about how novices die doing this. Has Fang personally experienced it?
She subtly nodded her head. "Got it."
"Next, don't look them in the eye."
Again, how was that physically possible? "They're behind me."
"Then don't look back."
"What happens if I look them in the eye?"
"When you look them in the eye, you're issuing a challenge. That you're not afraid of them or their power, and they find it intimidating."
"Isn't that good?"
"Ah, but there's a catch to that," Fang grinned, scooting closer to stare directly into Lightning's pale cerulean orbs. Lightning has to tell herself not to instinctively pull away. "You're challenging them, so you can't look away. Whoever looks away first loses."
"…loses? What happens then?"
Fang tilted her head slightly, as if to think, but still holding the contact. "That depends...on the winner."
Somehow, Lightning had a feeling Fang wasn't talking about the gorgonopsids anymore. She shifted on the spot, watching a smile grow on the hunter's lips before it hit her. If she's looking at her lips, she's not looking at her eyes. Fang stood up suddenly, her grin victorious.
"I think we've waited long enough. Come on."
Lightning rose slowly to her feet, still slightly stumped by what just happened. Fang challenged her; she looked away. And why the hell did that matter? She shook the thoughts away as Fang readied her lance. She started to do the same, reaching for her gunblade when she realized she didn't know what she was going to use it for. They weren't fighting.
"Last bit. Don't attack them. Even if it gets bad, try to get out of there. If you attack, this turns from warning, to kill. And against that number, even summoning Bahamut and Odin won't help us."
That's a lot of don'ts but don't attack? Even when she's in danger? Her emergency response was fight or fight; flight wasn't in her system. She paused. Wait a minute. Flight?
Fang hopped over the rock, motioning for her to do the same.
Flight! Bahamut can fly. Why couldn't they just ride him over the area? She knew their Eidolons were battle aids, not transport, but doesn't this count? As battle avoidance aid? Fang must know this if she mentioned him.
"Right, let's go!"
"Wait, Fang. Bahamut…"
But it was no use. Fang didn't look back as she ran out into the open. Lifting her lance above her head and twirling it, she began shouting at the top of her lungs what sounded like complete gibberish to Lightning. Her face fell. So Fang was serious about the shouting. Unfortunately, she had no time to observe the absurdity as almost immediately, the gorgonopsids turned to the commotion. And in doing that, spotted her, standing still, right next to their nesting ground.
A few of them growled at her, baring their fangs. And when one broke out of the group to charge at her, leading the rest to do the same, she rolled her eyes and cursed, breaking into her own run. She glanced over to where Fang was further up, noticing that she had quite the following too. She snickered at the sight before the screaming and lance twirling reminded her of what she had to do as well.
She grimaced. Seriously? Did she have to? She threw a quick look over her shoulder and confirmed that she was being chased alright. But it was also certain that Fang had a bigger following than she did and dammit, wasn't she the one who insisted on coming along? If she was going to do something, do it thoroughly. She took a deep breath, seeking comfort in the fact that at least Snow won't see this. Or Hope. Or Sazh. Or Vanille. But somehow, she'd rather have all of them than Fang.
She spread out her arms at her sides, flailing them the only way she knew. Like birds flapping their wings. And then she opened her mouth, and shouted. She had absolutely no idea what she was shouting; only that her ears registered the sound and that was good enough. But when Fang turned sharply to look at her at the advent of her shouting and then laughing, she knew it must have been horrible. Ignoring that reaction, she instead ran faster at the increased activity behind her, being mindful of not looking back. They sounded close now, their growls raising the hair on the back of her neck. She sprinted, easily reaching Fang and within three strides, passing her.
"Hey hey hey! Not so fast, we're baiting, remember?"
The thundering footfalls told her that any slower was dinner. "They're close!" she spat back.
Fang turned her head, keeping her gaze pointed down so as to not catch their eyes. "You're right," she broke into her own sprint, closing the gap between Lightning and herself. "Time to really run."
She had been convinced that she was faster, and while she wasn't going at top speed yet, it surprised her that Fang seemed effortlessly on par with her. She had always thought that Fang's body was made for strength rather than speed. Her brows creased. So Fang rivals her in yet another category. She knew Fang was undeniably stronger. Was she also faster?
Lightning huffed, flapping her arms even harder, letting her mild irritation leave her through her mouth. Oddly, that actually felt therapeutic. So that's why some people scream when they're frustrated. With the wind in her face and the adrenaline in her blood, it was refreshing. That was, until the rambunctious laughter cut in from beside her.
"Dammit Light! Stop that already! That's enough!" Fang's chest was heaving. From laughter. "You're gonna kill me!"
The former soldier stopped instantly, pulling her arms back to herself, but the laughter went on. "Wasn't that one of the dos?" she hissed.
"That was ridiculous, Light," Fang shook her head in mirth. Lightning felt heat creeping to her cheeks. "You don't have to keep it up the whole way!"
"You didn't say that!"
The other shrugged. "Thought you'd figure when I stopped."
A gorgonopsid unexpectedly dove for Fang, the hunter just barely jumping out of the way. A few others began attempting the same while Fang gracefully dodged them all.
"Seems like they're gaining on us!"
She resisted the urge to snort. Like that wasn't obviously going to happen. She didn't think it was possible, but Fang ran faster still, keeping her lance out horizontally behind her and moving it up and down almost like a shield. When she barely evaded a paw to her shoulder herself, she decided to do the same, drawing out Blaze Edge from its holster. As long as she didn't attack, it was fine, wasn't it?
There wasn't time to process the words. And maybe it was her years of military training, it sounded like an order, so her body obeyed instantly. She ducked, feeling the wind shift just as a shadow flew over her. The gorgonopsid landed in front of her, blocking her path and snarling. She didn't slow down, snapping her Grav-con Unit to life and then kicking herself into the air to soar pass the obstructing creature, deactivating it as soon as she was clear, hitting the ground running.
She heard a whistle coming from her side.
Fang grinned at her. "Nice move there."
She nodded, about to thank her for the heads up when she saw a gorgonopsid about to do the same to Fang. "Fang!"
She realized straight after that she should've said something more directive like 'behind you' or 'look out' or even 'duck' but Fang had already noticed the motion. Fang let the beast get ahead of her and charged a ruin spell in her palm and for a moment Lightning's eyes widened. Was Fang attacking? Then the ruin was shot towards the ground, blowing up a cloud of smoke and dust. Fang swiftly emerged from the cloud unscathed, the gorgonopsids banging into each other behind her.
Fang chuckled, already knowing what was happening without looking. She caught Lightning's eye and grinned. Lightning couldn't believe it. Fang was actually enjoying this. She could tell from the curve of her lips, from the vigor of her movements, from the glint in her eyes. Fang was having the time of her life. The hunter would appear to slow down, allowing herself to come dangerously close to her pursuers only to cleanly avoid a swipe and start sprinting again. Rinse and repeat. Teasing. Typical.
Her own muscles ached from exertion, and her lungs burned for air. She had no problems with running usually. She could go for miles without breaks. But that was running. And what she was doing now was sprinting. Sprinting was meant for short distances. She had never run this fast for this long. She gritted her teeth, forcing a deep breath in. Her peripheral vision noted that Fang was clearly behind her now, but whether that was because that's the limit of her speed or because it was on purpose, she didn't know.
A gorgonopsid made a swipe for Fang's sari, the blue material flipping freely in the wind and Fang just only managed to pull the cloth away. "No! Bad boy!"
Lightning couldn't help finding the scene rather silly, Fang trying to reprimand a gorgonopsid for attempting to grab at her sari. She thought of her own cape and quickly reined it in, wrapping it loosely around her upper arm. Fang didn't miss the action, sending her a look of silent understanding and the corners of her mouth twitched. She smirked back and then released the tiniest of a chuckle. Fang's surprise was evident but with a quick grin, she joined in.
She didn't know what it was, the circumstances were surely different, but she felt like a kid again, playing catch with Serah. She was always faster than Serah and she'd laugh at her sister lagging behind. Serah would then pretend to be angry, but laugh anyway cause she could never stay angry at her. Then she'd offer her hand, and Serah would take it, and they'd run together. She wasn't sure what possessed her then, maybe it was the adrenaline, maybe it was the memory, maybe it was because Fang was behind her, maybe it was because they were both chuckling over how their clothes could be the end of them, but she stretched out her hand towards Fang.
Fang eyed her hand, and for a while she wanted to know what Fang was thinking, but then another hand slapped onto hers, gripping tight, and she smiled. Fang's hand was warm. Fang returned the smile and then without warning, tugged her close. She felt a breath on her neck first, before it readjusted to her ear. Fang's breath, body, was warm too.
"Last leg now," the hunter managed between shallow spurts for air. "We split up. See that mound of earth there?" she vaguely pointed to said mound in the near distance. "Meet me there."
And then Fang was gone, breaking away from her. She did the same, running in a semi circle towards the mound. She could feel it now. She was slowing down, and her body wanted nothing more than to crash. A gorgonopsid appeared beside her, slowly gaining more ground. She cursed. These things sure were persistent. Wasn't it enough of a warning that they'd chased them all the way here? She turned to the mound just up ahead, spotting Fang already there, hacking away at the ground with her lance.
She scrunched up her eyebrows, wondering what the hell Fang was doing when the Pulsian disappeared into the ground. A hole! That was the exit? She took the last few steps towards it before sliding into it leg first, narrowly escaping a pounce by that one gorgonopsid that was beside her. She landed at the base about twenty feet down, her weary legs immediately giving out from right under her and she fell on all fours, Blaze Edge slipping from her grasp. Not that it mattered right now. What mattered now was air. Rest.
For a moment all she could hear was her own labored breathing, and her heart hammering away in her head, but then her ears picked up the growling and the scratching and she tensed. She reached for her weapon while turning towards the hole she dropped in from when a hand grabbed hers. Fang. It had slipped her mind she wasn't alone. Fang shook her head tiredly, reaching to pull Blaze Edge from her hand.
"They won't come in."
Fang was right. The hole was too small for the predators though she was sure they could force themselves through if they wanted to, but they didn't. She relaxed, not caring to ask why just yet. They were out of danger. That's enough. She fell forward on her hands again, gasping for much needed breath. The drastic change of motion from sprinting to complete stop had her head reeling with dizziness. She closed her eyes, trying to muster enough saliva to swallow even when her mouth felt entirely too dry. Somehow she managed it, and when she opened her mouth again, her breath came steadier.
She pushed herself up onto her knees, feeling calm enough to breathe from her nose. She reached for her cape, unrolling it from her arm, seriously considering to just take if off completely. Her body felt so hot, no thanks to her sweater. The beads of sweat rolling down her chest and the small of her back told her she was in need of a long invigorating bath. Preferably hot. She made to stand, but when her legs muscles protested heavily against the action, she slumped back down. Just a while longer wouldn't hurt. After all, Fang seemed in no rush to move either.
The hunter was flat on her back, arms spread out by her side. Her eyes were closed and her body perfectly still. The only indication that she was alive was the gentle rise and fall of her chest. She looked so serene. So…beautiful. Lightning turned away, crushing that strange urge churning within her to lie down next to Fang. Instead, she crawled over to the nearest wall, using it as support as she tried to stand again, sheathing her weapon as she did so.
Making a point to avoid even chancing a glance over the picturesque tranquility lying there on the ground, she surveyed her surroundings. Everything was dark, save their immediate proximity thanks to the light that shone in from the hole above them. They were in a tunnel of some sort, stretching out on both sides. She couldn't see anything on her right, but there seemed to be a small amount of illumination in the distance on her left.
"Where are we?"
Fang's eyes slowly opened, flicking over to her. The taller woman grinned, pushing herself up to a sitting position. "One of the tunnels that Atomos dug. It's the fal'Cie in charge of digging underground tunnels along the Mah'habara. This tunnel is just one of the few that leads straight into the Subterra. We should be able to meet up with the rest then."
The rest. She wondered if they made it across alright. She watched Fang get up, flexing her limbs about. The tan woman winced when she pulled a muscle, but then she laughed all the same.
"Ah, gotta miss this feeling."
Lightning pushed away from the wall cautiously, letting her legs reacquaint with her weight before she took the few steps to stand right under the hole. She looked through it. There wasn't a single gorgonopsid in sight. She couldn't even hear them.
"Why didn't they come in?"
Fang paused her flexing, following Lightning's gaze. "Well for one, the moment we're out of view, we're no longer a threat," she picked her lance, spiked into the ground. "For two, Atomos can be quite the unforgiving fellow."
"What does that—?"
"Atomos digs tunnels. That's all it does. Doesn't care for anything else. Pretty harmless fellow. But because digging tunnels is all it does, it doesn't care what's in its path. Unless they're strong enough to stop it, its going to just plough through," Fang clipped her lance back in place. "All the beasts here know that, so they avoid the tunnels."
"We're smaller than the gorgonopsids."
Fang nodded, one brow raised. "That's a wonderful observation, Light."
Lightning glared at Fang. The Pulsian could be so infuriating at times. "You know what I meant. We're in Atomos' path."
The other chuckled lightly, mumbling an apology somewhere in between. "We'll hear it coming and since not all the tunnels are this narrow, we could run in whichever direction until the tunnel opens up then just get out of its way or, if the tunnel doesn't open up…"
"If the tunnel doesn't open up?"
Fang smirked. "Then it's time to get really friendly with the walls."
She snorted, crossing her arms. "Like that's a real solution."
"By the way," Fang walked up to her, running a hand through her hair. It almost seemed like she wanted to put that hand on her shoulder, but she retracted it halfway, dropping it to her hips instead. "Good job out there. You…would qualify as a hunter by Oerba's standards."
"…thanks, I guess."
"Let's get going. The others should be waiting for us."
Fang moved to brush past her, when she stopped the taller woman with a hand to the shoulder. Fang halted, slightly startled as she turned to face the hand's owner.
Lightning didn't look at her. She had to know for sure. "We could have used Bahamut."
There it was plain and simple. Fang wasn't denying that she knew all along and chose not to use him. But why? Why go through all that trouble?
"Why?" she wasn't angry and she definitely wasn't accusing. She just wanted to know.
"I'm probably being selfish," Fang said softly, "but I just…wanted to do all the things I used to do here."
She had to admit she couldn't understand what Fang was feeling then. Fang was hard to figure, and the nonchalance didn't help. The Pulsian seldom showed extreme emotions unless it was regarding Vanille. What of coming to Pulse? Home sweet home. And then nothing. None of that bursting excitement Vanille radiated, none of the brimming anticipation, none of the overflowing joy. Nothing. And now this. This attempt to reconnect with her homeland that has changed while she hasn't. She couldn't read Fang. No, she couldn't read Fang at all.
"Was I in the way?"
Fang reeled. "What?"
Lightning turned to Fang. "Did you want to be alone? Do this alone?"
"You're not in the way, Light. Don't ever think that. I probably did want to be alone in the beginning but, I'm glad you came with me. I really enjoyed it, with you," Fang smiled, reaching up to take hold of Lightning's wrist. "Come on, let's go."
Lightning quickly pulled her wrist back, or she thought she did. It should have been a reflex thing, but when the warm pressure remained even as they started walking, she had to convince herself that it was the fatigue from the run that made her take no action. They headed into the darkness, walking towards the distant illumination. She curled her fingers upwards, suddenly wishing Fang's hand were a few inches lower.
The scene where Fang and Light were running and they share a chuckle is actually the scene that gave birth to this story. I cooked that up randomly one day and then decided to build a story around it. So I incorporated all my unwritten oneshot ideas and poof, I get this. Honestly, this chapter was difficult to write. I now know I am going to hate the next reflection.