Si's Note: Though some elements of the story were borrowed from Episode: Zero, this is my own twist on things. The timeline is apparent later in this oneshot, but since it takes place before FFXIII please note that personalities will be slightly different. Although you don't have to read Revelations for this story to make sense, it certainly will help in regards to a certain situation.
Anyway, please enjoy the story-and remember that I still don't own anything related to Final Fantasy or its characters, no matter how much I'd like to. Please leave a review to let me know your thoughts on the tale!
Sounds of laughter rang throughout the streets of Bodhum as children pointed up to the night sky, wondering at the seemingly innumerable amount of stars that hung over their heads. Mingled in with the laughter was obvious annoyance on the part of the adults, who were unable to enjoy the simple pleasures of the night in the same manner: the air was too thick and moist, suffocating visitors and natives alike from the small coastal town. So many of them were unused to the humid nights; so many were unused to the insufferable summer heat during the evenings. They sought an escape, a reprieve from the unfamiliar summer weather that was so vastly different from the controlled environments of the larger cities. Since Bodhum was a smaller town, there was only one place where multitudes could go for an inexpensive escape while still enjoying the nightlife: Lebreau's.
The small bar was positively flourishing and Snow and Gadot were glad to see the change in pace from the usual trickle of customers that would come in on any given night. They sat in the front of the bar, each with half-empty mugs in their hands, their eyes roving over the new female customers with great interest. Gadot would notice the scantily-dressed women first and he'd typically nudge Snow in the ribs, nod in the direction of one and they'd make bawdy comments back and forth to each other for a few minutes before moving on. One particular pair of women, both brunettes and gloriously tanned, were especially interesting to Gadot. He had jabbed Snow three or four times before leaning over and whispering excitedly to him, for they had shown an interest when Gadot offered his traditional greeting of a head nod.
Snow's eyes wandered over to the women, took in the sight of their dangerously short skirts and shirts that left nothing to the imagination, and shook his head. They're probably crawling with diseases. It wasn't that he was opposed to women wearing such things: he just didn't particularly want to try and get involved with a woman whose sole intention was to look like a whore and show interest in the first decent-looking man they saw.
No, Snow always preferred something a bit more exciting: instead of going for the easy ones, he preferred women that were a challenge.
This preference explained the persistent poking in Gadot's side and the wide grin that Snow would don whenever a sexually cold, but still visually attractive, woman would walk in the door to sit by her lonesome, utterly ignoring any and all passes made to her. Snow knew that, with enough patience and persuasion, even the most icy of women could be swayed into heated passion-and that was a claim that would always trump jumping into the pants of a woman that was considered "easy".
A pale-faced woman was braiding her raven locks in the far corner of the bar and Snow watched her diligently, assessing the situation carefully before deciding on his move. He nodded once to Gadot in her general direction as Snow took a long swig of his beer and then, slowly, he stood, stretched, and began to make his way over to her-
-when a man in a loose-fitting military uniform beat him to the punch.
"For shit's sake," Snow mumbled, running his fingers through short hair. He turned back around and rejoined Gadot at the bar, crestfallen. "Taken," he explained to Gadot, who was smirking in his mug.
"Shoulda gone for the brunettes. They haven't stopped batting their eyelashes at us since they walked in."
"Where's the fun in that?" Snow responded, clanking his empty cup against the bar. "'Breau! Where are you? You're slacking off!"
Lebreau appeared suddenly from the far corner of her counter, refills in hand. "You know where everything's at: get it yourself, you lazy ass! It's my money that you're using to pay for your drinks, anyway!"
"Correction," Gadot said, holding up a finger. "It was your money. It was given to us in the form of a paycheck-"
"Allowance," Lebreau corrected sharply. "We all know you don't do jack squat around here, so you certainly don't deserve a paycheck."
After a moment of silence, Gadot resigned. "Touché."
She wiped her counter vigorously, venting her frustration on a small stain that no other soul could see. "I've got the GC goons coming in for some stupid party in ten minutes and my help hasn't shown up yet. If they think they can get away with making out behind the damn bar again without me firing them, then-"
"'Breau," Gadot said seriously, his face masked with concern. "You don't seem like yourself today. Is it...you know..." his voice lowered to a dramatic whisper, "that time of the month?"
Snow had never seen a woman's face turn that many shades of red before until he saw Lebreau, in all her rage, struggle to find an insult worthy of Gadot, who had, in his drunken stupor, taken to pounding the counter in rhythm with his loud guffaws. Luckily for Gadot, the military man that had stolen Snow's female of choice called Lebreau over, and as she left she was muttering darkly under her breath.
Frothy beer met Snow's lips, and after yet another long swig he said, "You know, man, one day she's gonna kick your ass for giving her so much crap all the time."
With glazed eyes Gadot responded with "I'd love to see that." It was said slowly, distantly.
Wait, what does he mean by that?
Did Gadot have a thing for Lebreau? No way that could be possible. She was practically family to Snow, and Gadot was like Snow's brother, and...
Ah, hell. Those images won't be out of my head any time soon.
All the possible implications of a relationship between Gadot and Lebreau-however unlikely the relationship was, given Lebreau's sassy and demeaning attitude towards Gadot-flew through Snow's mind. He knew Gadot was speaking beside him, but nothing was really making much sense: each time he tried to concentrate on the conversation, the thought of Gadot and Lebreau acting like the hormone-driven teens that they were flew to the forefront of his mind, disturbing Snow to the point where he had to look away. It was not, after all, very fun to have images of an almost-brother and almost-sister copulating stuck in your mind.
Something else. Think about something else.
"Come on, you have got to be kidding me..."
"Huh?" Snow snapped his attention to the open doorway of the bar when he heard a small commotion. About a dozen people walked through the door, most in uniform, and headed directly for the bar. Most were men in the same loose-fitting outfit as the earlier member of the armed forces, and most wore the distinguishable GC shoulder plates that signified their higher ranks within the Corps. Boots shuffled sand into the establishment, which was something Snow knew Lebreau would have a fit about after closing, given her mood. Most of the men sat at the counter while a couple mingled with the occupants of the main sitting area. Snow was preparing to engage 'ignore mode' when, quite suddenly, his attention was ripped from his drink yet again.
A woman, about his age, entered the bar behind a uniformed man. She was tall-almost as tall as some of the men she entered with-and lean. Cautious glances were cast around the room as she stepped further into it, ever nearer to the counter, and after her evaluation she slowly took her seat on the corner opposite Snow. Her position gave him ample opportunity to look her over.
The first thing he noticed was that she was not dressed in a manner that would attract attention from men like Gadot-she wore jeans that hugged her curves well, sports shoes, and a simple yellow tee. Nothing about her choice of clothing was particularly eye-catching, Snow had to admit, but the thing that had initially intrigued him was her hair: it was a pale pink color, naturally so, and it was tied back in a loose pony tail with its curls cascading down to her mid-back. It was different, exotic.
He studied her more throughout the next twenty minutes, carefully averting his gaze whenever her stormy eyes darted in his direction. Once it was safe to raise his eyes again, he would notice other things about her that piqued his interest all the more: the contrast between her feminine features and her lean muscles; her downturned lips and general disinterest for the hubbub around her; how she continually shifted her weight impatiently; and the way she would focus on certain individuals, like Gadot, and send forth waves of cold glares while he noticed nothing.
Snow lowered his head again when her eyes did yet another sweep across Snow, and this time she lingered on him a bit longer than usual. He felt her penetrating gaze, and, curious, he lifted his eyes to meet hers. Their eyes locked, and Snow was taken aback to see no friendliness within her stare, despite the small smile he wore. He was, generally, a nice guy, right? Maybe she was getting the wrong sort of vibe from him, or maybe she was just uncomfortable...
A small nod was given in her direction, one that was hardly returned before her attention wandered elsewhere. Snow, feeling the thrill of a challenge, prodded Gadot in the ribs with his elbows. "Where's she at?" Gadot said, familiar enough with the situation after ages of practice.
Snow quietly responded, "To our left, at the bar. Pink hair-"
"No." Gadot hadn't even checked to see who Snow was referencing. Almost as an afterthought he leaned forward slightly and spied the woman in question, but even then he shook his head and leaned back to nurse his mug. "She looks pretty cold, man."
"Therein lays the fun, right?" Snow grinned, draining out the last contents of his mug. He prepared to stand, to make his way over to her, but Gadot grabbed his arm and yanked him back down. "What the...?"
"Listen to me, man. She came in with the GC. She's probably taken. Don't play with that fire-you'll be burned. Badly."
Snow considered his words for a moment. "Sounds like you've got experience with that one..."
"I don't," Gadot said flatly. "I just can sense a dangerous situation when I see one."
With another laugh Snow began to stand yet again, despite the continuing warnings from his friend. "Yeah, yeah, I heard you, but I'm still going to go for..." Snow paused and looked around, surprised and confused all at once.
Gadot just grunted into his mug when Snow told him that the woman had just disappeared, soundlessly, and without his noticing. "'least you didn't get a chance to make a fool of yourself."
"I would have liked to have tried," Snow said bitterly.
Thoughtfully considering his words, Gadot said, "Well, we win some and we lose some." He stood and stretched, patting Snow on the back. "Thankfully, though, I spy a couple brunettes that could definitely be considered a win."
Snow grinned and abandoned his chair, walking side-by-side with his old friend up to the table of the tanned goddesses, his thoughts already far from the pink-haired girl.
The beaches of Bodhum were nothing short of spectacular, Snow thought. He'd been here, on this same patch of sandy shores, innumerable times, and each time the same thought flashed through his head. He loved this place, with its white-sand shores and perfectly-placed palms along the edges of the crystalline sea...it was beautiful, to be sure, but it also brought a semblance of peace that was hard to find in many other towns on Cocoon.
It feels like I'm not actually stuck on some small little planet...
Yuj and Snow stood near each other on the shore, removing their shoes to test the waters. "Not many monsters out today," Yuj commented, obviously disappointed. Snow laughed at the blue-haired teen and pushed him sideways, which nearly caused the youth to tumble into the salty waters.
"Can't wait to be a hero, huh?" Snow asked, his amusement growing when he spied the look of disdain that was bestowed upon him by Yuj, who was cursing the few splashes of water that managed to soak through his clothes.
Yuj growled something under his breath and stepped back from the water, straightening his clothes out as he did so. "I would like to see something resembling action today," he mumbled. "So far the most action we've seen is a couple wild dogs mating..." He buried his head in his hands. "Carbuncle's Concubine, I'll never get that image out of my head."
Snow roughly patted Yuj's shoulder in a manly, comforting sort of way. "'s'okay, kid. It'll fade, over time." Quick glances were taken around him. "Where'd Maqui go?"
Shrugging, Yuj leaned down and replaced his shoes. "Said he had to go get a replacement part for his gun. Damn thing broke on him again."
"'At least he knows how to fix it." With a sigh Snow followed Yuj's lead and donned his footwear yet again, motioning for Lebreau to catch up. She was a ways back still, talking and laughing with Gadot. Both held large guns easily in their hands: on a day like today, with the sun shining brightly, clear skies, and a light breeze, it was hard to imagine anything ill befalling them.
Lebreau, seeing Snow's outstretched and waving arms, tapped Gadot on the shoulder and began jogging towards Snow. With her chosen apparel, most men would have found the movement to be...enticing, at the least. Snow, thinking of Lebreau as something more akin to a sister, just shook his head at the woman's choice of clothing and turned his back.
When Lebreau arrived at Snow's side, he cast her a playfully harsh glare. "Decency, 'Breau. You should learn about it some time."
"What are you talking about?" she snapped back, tugging her shirt back up. "I am decent! Especially compared to most of the girls you date or sleep with-"
"I haven't slept with that many women..."
Lebreau snorted derisively. "Yeah, I could tell by the way you and Gadot were about to jump into those brunettes' pants two nights ago."
At that Yuj turned around, a shapely brow arched high. "This is a story I've yet to hear."
Gadot joined them, his large feet, though slow, carrying him over the distance that Lebreau had covered earlier in half as many steps. "What story is that?" he huffed. At Yuj's dark chuckle, he said, "What the hell are you giggling for? What story are you talking about?"
Snow rubbed his neck and rolled his eyes as Lebreau began to launch into her painfully, thoroughly detailed explanation of exactly what she had been referring to, but all actions and words ceased when the heard some sort of commotion behind a sand dune to their right.
"...the hell is that?" Yuj asked, shielding his eyes against the midday sun as he peered over at the white, sandy hill about ten yards off. They heard a metallic ring followed shortly thereafter by a sickening squelch. All four of them exchanged knowing glances before taking off on a dead run towards the nearby dune.
"Finally! My gun gets some use!" Gadot cheered, his slow gait easily keeping up with the quick steps of Yuj and Lebreau. Snow, slightly more conditioned than the others, was in the lead, and at Gadot's words he broke into a wide grin. Their pace didn't lessen any as they rounded the base of the dune, but all four stopped dead in their tracks as they watched a lone soldier taking on a handful of the aggresive aquatic lifeforms that populated the area.
Yuj brushed past Snow, his mouth gaping as the rose-haired woman from the bar, the one that had vanished so easily from Snow's mind, pirhoutted once, bringing a flashing blade skywards with a powerful upwards thrust. It missed the surprisingly agile creature, who had rolled to the side and brought its claw up to strike again. The woman smirked and rolled neatly to the side, catching herself with one palm. Her legs, outfitted with no-nonsense military-issue combat boots, curled beneath her chest and, by merely jerking her wrist, her blade transformed into a sleek gun. Her head snapped up, aiming carefully at the scaled beast she currently battled against, and then she loosed somewhere between three to five bullets on the unsuspecting creature, who almost instantaneously fell over, dead. She inhaled quickly, and Snow noticed, quite distinctly, how the action made her chest rise beneath the tight, black uniform that she wore.
"Man," Yuj murmured, "you have got to get me a piece of that."
"Good luck," Gadot grunted, although he was similarly entranced by the sight. "You don't stand a chance."
"Is that a challenge I sense?" Snow asked, quirking a brow at his tanned friend. He was all too ready to find a reason to approach the woman that had so easily eluded him before. "'cause if it is, then I accept."
Gadot shook his head, stepping forward to stand beside Snow. "Enjoy your last moments of manhood then, bro."
"Thirty gil says I win," Snow shot back.
"Done." Gadot and Snow shook hands before returning their attention to the object central to Snow's success. They watched as she took out two more of the creatures that had surrounded her with as much ease as earlier, but she seemed to have lost track of one of them, which had quietly flanked her backside and was readying its assault. Just as the woman finished off the last of the monsters to her front, the lone marine beast charged, its head lowered and claws bared.
The men had been stupefied by the woman's actions and general curvature of her body. Thankfully, Lebreau was resistant to the charms of women in battle and had already raised her gun, which was nearly half the size of her, and with the cry of "We'll help!", she shot off an ear-shattering round that pierced a large hole into the beast's underbelly.
At the sound of the gunshot, the rose-haired fighter rounded on the small group of NORA members. She still seemed on edge and surprisingly irritated, considering they had just saved her life and everything, but at least her gun had transformed back into a blade, which she held, readied, at her side.
Snow noted, with no small amount of satisfaction, the appraising look the woman gave Lebreau that ended with a deep scowl as her eyes raked over Lebreau's daring neckline and impractical skirt. "NORA, I'm assuming?" the soldier said in a light voice, her eyes slowly assessing the others in the group. Her scowl became more pronounced as she did so.
"How'd you know?" Lebreau queried; her gun hanging limply from her hands. The fighter's eyes snapped back on her and the way Lebreau held the gun.
"Few citizens carry weapons openly," she said knowingly. "And you're obviously not soldiers." Snow could imagine she was thinking them all the be amateurs, that they probably didn't know what they were doing, which was apparently not the case for this woman. Wanting to save face, and to appear somewhat professional, he stepped forward.
"I'm Snow Villiers," he said brightly, trying to win her over with a flashy smile. "The leader of NORA." She blinked at him once, twice, and said nothing. Scrambling to continue the conversation, he introduced the others as well. "This is Yuj, Lebreau, and Gadot. They're members of NORA as well."
When he introduced Gadot, the woman's eyes locked onto Snow's best friend and she glared coolly at him until, finally, he lowered his gaze and began mumbling incoherently, seemingly embarrassed. Not that Snow could blame him, really - she had a way of even making Snow feel inferior.
Snow scratched his neck again, a bit frustrated by the woman's lack of social etiquette. Doesn't she know that this is the point where she's supposed to introduce herself? "Uh...and you are...?"
The woman sheathed the gunblade in the holster behind her back and then folded her arms across her chest. "Corporal Farron with the Bodhum Guardian Corps." Her intense stare didn't lessen any, and Snow had to admit he was slightly taken aback. She knows she's good. She's proud as hell. "I'm here to investigate the origins and intentions of your group, NORA, under order from the Lieutenant Colonel. My orders include informing you that your complete cooperation is essential, and because of this I must also answer any questions that you may have relating to the GC." Her posture suggested she would rather deal with a dozen more of the aquatic life forms she had just killed before answering their questions. "Now, if you don't mind," she said, "I'd appreciate if you'd tell me about NORA-"
"As much as I'd love to stay, I've got to go escort Maqui, over there," Lebreau interrupted, her tone snippy. Snow glanced over to the general direction where she was pointing and noted that Maqui was slowly shuffling his feet in the sand, practically dragging an obnoxiously large gun behind him. "Wouldn't want any wild dogs to get him or something." Nodding, Snow watched as Lebreau jogged off, knowing that Lebreau was probably irritated that Farron hadn't lavished thanks on them for saving her. He then turned back to Corporal Farron, who had been watching Maqui with a faint glimmer of recognition in her eyes, shook her head, and returned her attention to Snow.
With another charming smile, Snow stepped forward, leaning in towards the corporal unabashedly, deciding to continue the conversation where it had left off. "I would love to tell you all about NORA over dinner tonight. How does Rapacchi's sound, at around, say, six o'clock?"
Gadot choked back a laugh behind him, which made it sound more like a snort.
Farron raised a brow, almost delighted, and for a moment Snow's ego soared. "Dinner? With someone like you?" She chuckled mirthlessly. "I'm not that desperate for a good meal," she said haughtily, stepping back a few steps. The ego that had taken a soaring leap had now crashed to the sandy shores of the beach. "This is strictly professional. Now, all you have to do is tell me what the hell you guys think you're doing, and then we can avoid all other pathetic attempts on your part to get in my pants."
Snow shook his head and recovered from his momentary shock. He had never been turned down like that. Ever.
Nor had his intentions ever been so blatantly stated.
Yuj was shaking with silent laughter beside him. Ignoring him, Snow tried to save face for the second time in less than five minutes. "We're just here doing our civic duty by destroying the monsters that threaten Bodhum. What are the PSICOM guys doing out here? NORA's just a small organization - nothing to be concerned about," he retorted defensively.
"I'm not PSICOM," she said hotly. "GC and PSICOM aren't related." As if there were more she wanted to say, she opened her mouth again and closed it once, twice, before swallowing. "GC is responsible for small-town issues. PSICOM belongs to the Sanctum. If PSICOM were involved, you'd be...neutralized by now, to put it politely. GC is only getting involved with you because your organization is steadily growing and you are also arming citizens, which means we must assess the situation. If you don't cooperate, PSICOM will be informed and the appropriate measures will be taken, which is a step none of us want to take." She crossed her arms across her chest, scowling, as if the very thought of PSICOM intervening was the worst possible scenario imaginable.
Snow's mind was far from the situation at hand, though. He was observing how Farron's synthetic uniform conformed to every muscle - and there were many - on the woman's body. As his eyes slowly travelled upwards he also noticed the small electrical pack that was belted to her waist. He recalled hearing once that the high-performance Guardian Corps members were issued uniforms that were still under development by Sanctum scientists, to ensure that they were safe before granting them to the highly treasured PSICOM soldiers.
"So, let's start from the beginning-"
Yuj, whose eyes seemed to have fallen on the same electrical pack that Snow had earlier observed, interjected and asked what the purpose of the machine was for. She sighed heavily, not happy that she had been interrupted twice now, and quickly responded with, "AMP technology - It generates electrical impulses that help with muscle reflexes and performance. It's still under development."
I've got to get my hands on that - though whether he meant the soldier or the technology was largely unknown, even to him.
"If you're done with your questions related to the Guardian Corps, then I will once again ask what the purpose of your-" The radio at Farron's side crackled to life, and a male voice queried as to her whereabouts. Farron whipped her champagne locks away from her face with black, gloved hands; the curls cascaded elegantly down the opposing shoulder. Grabbing the radio, she uttered some nonsensical words into the device. A moment's pause was ended when the man then requested backup with a situation on the east side of town.
Her jaw set in place, more annoyed than ever, she told the man she was out on the Colonel's business, to which she received more GC jargon, which sounded strangely like a recitation of an official handbook as a response. Finally she agreed to go assist, though she was none too pleased about it. "Don't think you've wormed your way out of this yet," she growled, throwing a gloriously long leg over the seat of her velocycle, which had been thrown haphazardly on the ground three yards away (probably when she had first begun to fight). The engine of her bike roared to life and she wheeled around, ready to ride off into town. "I'll be back for my information later."
With that, she was gone, disappearing almost as quickly as she had two nights before.
Snow whistled low. "Hot damn."
Maqui, who had trotted over to Snow's side with Lebreau while the older blond was still gaping, shielded his eyes and watched the quickly disappearing soldier in the distance. "Was that Lightning?" he asked, his goggles reflecting the sunlight.
"How could there be lightning? There's not even a cloud in the sky, dumbass," Yuj said, shoving Maqui lightly back.
Maqui dropped his gun in the sand and stumbled back a few steps. "No, YOU'RE the dumbass, dumbass!" he quickly recovered his footing and launched back at Yuj, shoving him in return. Scowling, Yuj prepared for a counterattack before Lebreau broke them up, scolding both for their immature behavior.
"I meant Lightning - that girl that just went away - not the thunder-and-lightning sort of lightning." Maqui tried to explain after making a rude gesture towards Yuj. "I'm friends with her sister."
Snow wheeled around, his curiosity piqued. "You're saying that girl - Corporal Farron or whatever - her name is 'Lightning'?"
He nodded resolutely. "I only know of one Farron family: two sisters with pink hair. Her sister is Serah and that was Lightning Farron. I think she's in the GC or PSICOM or something. I don't really remember."
"GC," Snow and Gadot responded simultaneously, causing Gadot to grin.
'Lightning'? That's a weird name...who the hell names their kid that? And, more importantly, how old is this sister of hers...? Lightning didn't show much interest, but maybe I'd get lucky with this Serah girl...
Snow decided to ask on the sister's age, earning a laugh from Lebreau and Yuj. "Serah's just fifteen. A year older than me," he added.
"That's illegal, Snow," Lebreau taunted, resting her arm against Gadot's shoulder. "Another three years, though, and you're good to go."
Gadot chuckled. "That gives you three years to work on convincing Lightning to go out with you once. If you still can't get her to even consider you, and after three arduous years of trying just to have her belittle you like she did today, then at least you'll have the sister to resort to, yeah? Even if you will be out thirty gil..."
"Shut up, Gadot," Snow mumbled, his cheeks reddening slightly. "She said she'll be back. I've got more chances to try still." And I'm up for a challenge.
"Yeah, you keep trying. Just wait 'til she rips off your left testicle for trying too hard," he muttered. Shaking his head, he held out his hand towards Snow and wriggled his fingers. "But anyway, you owe me thirty gil. Pay up, bro."
Cursing vehemently under his breath, Snow cleaned out his pockets and handed the contents over to his friend. He suddenly realized that he was completely out of cash-he wouldn't be able to order a drink for the next few weeks, until his next paycheck from Lebreau.
That girl better be worth the trouble.