puzzle pieces
Lightning: 1, Fang: 0

She bites back a hiss.

"Light - "

"Do it," she snaps immediately, fist tight around her weapon that's embedded into the ground.

The response is instantaneous; there is no hesitation.

"Don't bite your tongue."

Cr - ack!

Her joints twist back into place and black spots invade her vision; pain flares - and she can't help but release a shuddering breath, and she feels like she's moments from falling over if it isn't for her grip on the sword - and the hand that is suddenly curled around her - steadying her.

The soldier feels her knee grazing against the rough surface of the sandy ground.

She closes her eyes, willing the black spots away, and takes in a deep breath. Her shoulder burns, and not even the cool, wafting breeze (of autumn, Fang had mentioned last time, something about four seasons in Gran Pulse) is enough to soothe the hot, searing pain that spreads all over her shoulder.

Lightning grunts, but doesn't shove the hand away from her - she wants to, but right now, she isn't sure if she can remove her grip from her sword without dropping to the ground; and the joint that connects the shoulder of her other working hand to her body has just been snapped back into place.

In other words, she's perfectly aware that her left hand wouldn't be able to shove Fang away even if she tried (and if Fang doesn't let her); it's just far too weak and trembling right now.

"Heal," Fang orders, and her grip presses into the soldier's ribs - broken ribs - and she hisses again when the pain jars her; the Oerban woman loosens her hold instantly as if she realizes the same thing - "you - "

"Quiet," she mutters, digging her knee further into the ground in a bid to hold herself steady. Obviously her ribs had broken when that - whatever it was - slammed into her. She thinks of the rest of the group - they had separated when the horde of monsters arrived after they got out of Taejin's Tower, and Fang and Lightning had chosen to play bait while the rest escaped.

Vaguely, she remembers Snow protesting, but there was just too little time and too many monsters, and they had already been separated when Fang slammed her spear into the ground to break the flimsy bridge and cut off the pursuit of the mob, so Sazh - the good man - knocked Snow out and dragged him away with the help of Vanille and Hope.

They would meet in Oerba - they promised.

But somehow and from somewhere, more of those monsters popped up, and as fast as Lightning's reflexes were, it was all she could do to curl into a defensive position before her breath was knocked out. Fang summoned Bahamut at that point, grabbed her a little too roughly - though it couldn't be helped given the situation - and hightailed it out of the area.

And this is where they are now: In some secluded cave that is hopefully free of monsters, her with injuries already aggravated by the impromptu getaway, and Fang with plenty of bruises and scrapes and quite possibly a fractured hand (the taller woman hadn't said anything, but Lightning isn't blind).

Slowly, slowly, she uncurls her fingers from around her sword - she doesn't want to fall over (even if she knows Fang will keep her steady), but even she knows when her body is failing her, her ribs - a few of them - are broken, her shoulder is - was - dislocated, her thigh is bleeding, she's tasting copper on her tongue, she suspects a cracked bone somewhere in her leg, and her head is spinning and hurting from the impact of hitting the...what had she slammed into? She doesn't know, or maybe she doesn't remember, but she doesn't really care right now.

Her hand finally relinquishes its grip on the sword, and for a brief moment, her vision goes dark; and she exhales deeply - her ribs jar her again when she does so - and she can tell she'd be falling over, if it wasn't for Fang and her grip.

"Light," Fang starts again, there is a certain warning in the way her voice rings in her ears; she ignores her, and instead forms a fist with her good hand, willing magic to swirl around it - and it's taking so much more effort than she is used to needing -

The woman holding her quiets down at the sight, and Lightning grits her teeth, sweat beading and rolling down her face; feeling the magic taxing her when she is already exhausted and injured - she sees and feels the warm light swirling in her fist, but damn it, her vision is growing hazy, and it takes her a split second decision to stop there and use the meager cure and not the curaga she wants.

Her fist tightens before uncurling, releasing the soft light over her, and over Fang too - she vaguely registers the muted protest of "Hey!" that came from the other, Fang sounds as if she doesn't want it.

The burn in her shoulder fades to a dull throb, and darkness claims her.

When she wakes up, the first thing she notices is the constant throb at the back of her head, and the dull ache all over her body.

"Easy does it," someone says to her, a hand pressing down on her good shoulder gently. "Your ribs are still broken."

Fang, she recognizes the voice easily.

"Where...?" her throat feels too dry, and she lets herself be pushed back down to where she is lying; it is really all she wants to do, frankly.

"Same place where we were. Some cave. It's been only half a day since you blacked out." Fang says, "Water?"

Lightning exhales, sighs, and rubs at her face tiredly with a hand that is covered with white cloth. Actually, there are bandages all over her; the zipper to her top is open, her chain dangles and glints in the dim light of the fire a couple steps in front of her, and she can feel the fresh bandages wrapped securely around her ribs.

"Yeah," she mutters, then tries to push herself back up, and grunts when the pain spikes.

The taller warrior gives her a look but doesn't stop her, and instead sighs. "Stubborn woman," she says, and maneuvers to help Lightning sit up and lean against the wall; the soldier takes this chance to give Fang a lookover for any possible injuries she didn't heal before she blacked out.

She finds none, the cuts and bruises are gone, and there's nothing swollen around the area she suspected had a fracture, and feels herself breathe a little easier despite the pain jarring her. (And she's ignoring the way Fang's eyes is narrowing at her reproachfully, like she just got caught red-handed stealing a cookie. That image makes her want to snort and grimace at the same time, even if all she really did was spare half the cure to heal Fang. Which really isn't guilt-worthy to Lightning. So she just looks back at Fang with a raised eyebrow.)

"Water, please." she requests.

There's a hint of exasperation in Fang's green eyes now. She looks at the ceiling and gives a long suffering woebegone sigh, and Lightning's lips almost twitch at the sight despite the pain all over her body.

Fang doesn't say anything though. She picks up the water bottle, uncaps it, and passes it to Lightning; who takes measured sips, even if all she wants to do is gulp it all down. It's a classic getting-choked-by-water scene she doesn't intend to remake.

The Oerban woman just watches and smirks at her; and Lightning wonders briefly if Fang can tell what she's thinking; and then those green eyes wanders downward - clouding over, serious and humorless -

"It was the oddest thing to watch," Fang says before Lightning can ask, "your brand."

And then, in a movement that catches her off-guard and almost makes her choke, Fang lifts a hand to push her shirt away, revealing more of the brand, brushing against her chain briefly before she runs a warm thumb over the curse.

Lightning snatches that hand away instantly.

Green eyes bore holes into the brand for a long, long moment - she is ignoring the way Lightning's grip on her wrist tightens - staring at it with an intensity that contains equal amounts of both wonder and foreboding.

"What in Etro are you talking about?" she asks, half bewildered and half surprised; she places the bottle of water down next to her and feels at her brand, resisting the urge to zip her up her turtleneck. She doesn't much care if Fang sees her naked; they have showered together with Vanille in rivers enough times for her to not care - if she even would otherwise. But this is...different.

Fang is being strange.

Piercing green eyes travel back up to look into hers.

"I saw it grow," she says, almost too quietly and too seriously. "I thought it was a trick of the eye at first, but - " Fang pauses, gaze distant for a moment, and then she focuses back on Lightning, "it was extending slowly. Really, really slowly."

Lightning doesn't know what to say to that.

Fang continues anyway, her voice frighteningly void of emotions and humor, and she doesn't break eye contact. "If you look at it closely - really, really closely, you can see it go dot by dot; it's like dotting paper with those black markers you Cocoon people use to write, only this is on the skin, and so much smaller, and its dot, dot, dot..."

A strange lump forms in Lightning's throat.

Then Fang's voice drops to a whisper. "Do you even realize that yours is nearly the same shape and size as mine?"

And suddenly, the turmoil of emotions is all too clear in those green eyes.

It's Fang's turn to exhale; she tugs her wrist away from Lightning's grip gently, and moves to sit beside her and stare at the fire.

"Heal up," she says, tone normal again. Orange and gold fire dances from within the reflection of her green eyes. "You're up for it now, right?"

It's a long moment before she finally answers.

"Yeah."

She channels enough magic to make the rest of her headache dissipate, and feels the bones of her ribs click and mend. It's a breath of relief to not feel the ache all over her anymore, even if exhaustion returns tenfold in its place, and she sighs.

The soldier leans against the cool surface of the wall, and closes her eyes momentarily. She feels Fang's eyes on her again.

"Rest," the Oerban woman says. "It's too dark to go anywhere right now. We'll meet up with them in Oerba tomorrow - it's only a couple hours journey, and they should have arrived by now."

"Mm," Lightning rubs at her face again, feeling lethargy - more than she has ever felt, and Etro, did that mean she was really that badly injured? - settle all over her.

She already feels as if she could sleep this instant, and really, in retrospect, she shouldn't - they haven't determined guard duty yet -

"I'm standing guard tonight. You are going to sleep for the next couple hours, and we're out of here at daybreak," Fang says, and before Lightning can say anything, the other cuts her off.

"If you protest, I'm knocking you out." Fang openly threatens, but there's no real weight behind it.

In response, Lightning snorts.

Fang just smirks.

But she doesn't argue; and a part of her is surprised and bewildered that she isn't, but another part of her has grown to trust Fang and Hope and everyone else in their band of misfits to degrees she never expected.

She trusted her back to them, and she still does.

So she settles; she's not going to lie down again, there are still too many possible dangers, but she leans against the wall of the cave, and picks up her sword to let it rest against her shoulder.

Lightning feels like she's already falling asleep.

Something nags at her, though.

"Fang?"

"Hm?"

"We're in this together."

Silence.

And then:

"Yeah." There's so much warmth and gratitude in Fang's quiet voice. "We are."

Satisfied, Lightning closes her eyes, and falls into a light slumber.

一一一

A/N: Fic started out by way of September's Monthly Theme (First Winds of Fall) belonging to that of the Fang/Lightning community in LJ/DW, and by the time I was done writing, it turned into something unrelated to the theme save for an autumn mention...but oh well. Probably may have other random snippets pertaining to Light/Fang in some form posted here in the future. Ranges from friendship to etc; all of which occurs pre/during/post game. Quite possibly some AU what ifs. If you were curious about the title where I put a tally of Lightning: 1, Fang: 0 ...well, hahah. You can probably guess why the score from a certain interaction in the fic.

And on romance. I actually wanted to see if I could somehow insert romance between the two. Obviously I failed though. I do like reading them together in various fictions, but I seem to have difficulty pairing them together in my own writing without going: "...No, Light/Fang just won't do/say that."

...Er, yeah. Guess I'm just not good with making our favorite characters romantically linked. I'm saaad. :(

And per what will be the usual from now on if I churn out any other fics/chapters for FF13, this is based on the Japanese version of the game. You may notice by the lack of Fang's slang, and... maybe some other really subtle things, but I didn't think any of it was pronounced enough for me to emphasis aside from a quick mention. But if you thought that Lightning feels a little warmer and just that little bit more playful to you, yes, this is the impression I get from the Light/Fang dynamic in the Japanese version of the game. It's a lot more subtle in English's ver, but I digress.

Thanks to Rae for beta-ing, per usual, and hope it was a good read. Reviews, flames, etc, all are appreciated. Peace.