"What do ya think happens after we die?"
"I mean, do you think our souls simply disappear into nothingness? Or, that we're reincarnated into a different life? Or even that we're simply living in purgatory of past sins and awaiting either paradise or eternal torment?"
"Ah - well, I'm not sure, Fang. I've never really had any views on death."
"Oh, really? And why do I find that hard to believe?"
Lightning chuckled, raising an eyebrow at the Pulsian. "Because I've always been a horrible liar?"
Fang laughed and shrugged noncommitally. "That might have something to do with it, yeah," she said, "but mostly..I donno, Light, I just figured that you had to believe in somethin', with you facing the possibility of death or serious injury as a soldier everyday. Even I once believed in somethin' - you can't sit there and tell me you've never thought once about death." Fang poked Lightning accusingly on the shoulder. Lightning scowled halfheartedly before replying, "I have."
"And, it never lead to pleasant thoughts."
Fang quirked an eyebrow. "Do explain."
Lightning pursed her lips and began absently messing with a strand of Fang's hair. "I had Serah to care for. Thoughts of death and leaving her all alone in this world - this was before Snow, mind you - made me panic and feel that just thinking about dying would bring it into being. So anytime the thought would spring up, I'd seriously distract myself so that I wouldn't go down that road." She paused, her fingers still continuing to mess with the strand of dark hair. "Sometimes, it would make me remember things."
Seeing the distant look on Lightning's face, Fang reached up and brushed her fingers across Light's cheek. She looked up and smiled sadly.
"When I was little," she said, her fingers faltering ever so slightly, "my mother would always smile and tell me dying was just like sleeping - a never-ending dream. My father would always treat it as joke, leaning in to whisper each time conspiratorially that he couldn't tell me because 'it's the greatest kept secret in the universe', whenever I'd ask.
Hand still on Lightning's cheek, Fang cracked her trademark grin. "Heh, sounds like something I would do."
Lightning snorted. "That's for sure..though, my father told me something different the night before he died. He knew he didn't have very much time left."
Fang tilted her head to the side. "Come again?"
Lightning sighed, leaning into the huntress. "It was a month before Serah's ninth birthday - I had just turned twelve a few months before. The whole day I'd noticed my father had been uncharacteristically quiet. I could sense something was wrong, but also that it wasn't the right time to ask about it. So, I refrained and distracted my sister from seeing and asking questions like kids always do in their innocence. Plus, Serah always had a million and one questions about anything and everything."
"And your mother? Did she notice?"
"She spent the day putting the finishing touches on Serah's birthday present, out by the beach so she wouldn't see it."
"What was it?"
"It was.." Lightning faltered, and had to swallow past the sudden lump in her throat. "It was a hair vtie. The very same hair tie she still uses to this day - our mother had spent weeks finding the perfect gems from the beachshore and polishing and putting them together to make a tie." She took a deep breath and cleared her throat. "Anyway, as I was getting ready to sleep that night, my father came in and sat down on my bed. I had sort of been expecting him to do something of the sort, so we sat for a few moments before he gestured for me to sit by him. I complied, frightened and terribly curious as to what was so important."
"You? Frightened? Hell musta froze over!"
"Hush, Fang, I was twelve years old and still Claire," Lightning said, lips twitching.
Fang grinned sheepishly. "Right, sorry, pardon my interruption."
"As I was saying.." Lightning cleared her throat.
"After I sat down, he grabbed my hand and held it as he said, 'Claire, dear, you know I love you and this family terribly, don't you?' For a minute, I was confused by the question. He went on before I could say anything.
'Do you remember how I've always said the mystery of death is the greatest kept secret in the univerese?' Still confused, I couldn't speak.
"I remember he smiled sadly. 'I'm afraid I haven't been entirely honest with you.' In that moment, I knew whatever he would say next would forever change my life. When my father spoke next, he said, 'Claire, I have a very short time left to live. You're old enough now to understand death and what it means. Many years ago, I managed to cheat death in an..unconventional way. Because of this, I know a little secret of my own about death.
'What happens when we die is still a mystery - however, each and every one of us has a different end waiting for us. It's completely different per person.'
He pulled me into a crushing hug before I could finally voice my confusion, telling me he and my mother wouldn't be around forever - that when they were gone, it would be my job to watch over Serah, and continue the family business if needed. He made me promise I'd do my absolute best. It..was the last time I ever saw him."
"Woah woah woah, hold on a second, Light. You're telling me your father could tell when he was going to die, most likely the exact moment from the sound of it, and so took it upon himself to ensure you'd watch over your sister and continue whatever the family business was?"
"Yes. He died the very next day and my mother followed suit just a few hours after. For the longest time, I blamed myself for their deaths. I thought that I could have saved them - you know, twelve-year old feeling of invincibility and the childish belief I could have stopped them from going to work that day, and all." Lightning paused, a small bitter twist of the lips gracing her face. "Truthfully, I think my dad thought my mother would stay with us for a few years yet, but it seems Death was feeling particularly vengeful."
Fang frowned, moving closer."Are you sure you haven't fallen and hit your head lately?" She began checking for signs of an injury. "This all seems a little..."
Lightning swatted her hands away. "Farfetched? I know, Fang. To this day I'm still not sure what he meant by the 'family business'. We never had a business."
"And you never thought to think that maybe he meant a past business?" Fang frowned.
"I already checked. Two days after the funeral I spent an entire week digging into what ancestry I could find. There was barely anything at all, and what I could find, didn't mention anything of a family business. I would have looked for more, but...I had Serah to look after."
"Huh. That's strange. I guess calling your dad completely bonkers is out, too? Since he was right about dyin' an' all - Ow!"
Lightning glared at Fang, her fist still clenched from the punch. "Not funny, Fang."
Fang rubbed her throbbing shoulder for a second before pulling the soldier into a warm embrace. "I know, Sunshine. I wasn't being serious - you just looked so upset I thought a little joke would help. Bad choice of words."
Lightning relaxed instantly in the arms of the huntress.
"Fang?" she asked, running her fingers lightly over the tattoo on Fang's arm.
"Why did you ask me about my opinion on dying?"
Fang was silent for a moment before stroking Lightning's hair. "I've just been thinkin' lately, is all. I mean, it's just hard to believe that after everything we've been through there's no surety as to what awaits us at the very end. I don't like not knowin', Light."
Lightning pulled back a little from Fang and put a finger to her lips. "I don't like not knowing either, but, there's not much we can do about it except keep heading forward." She pulled back a little farther and intertwined their fingers. "Together."
Fang grinned and pulled Lightning back into her arms for a kiss. "I like the way you think, Sunshine."